Dr. Ryan Lee was born and raised on a little farm in southern Indiana. From the beginning, he was surrounded and fascinated by plants. His father and mother (a Master Gardener) were constantly outside in the gardens planting potatoes and pulling weeds. At 15, Ryan’s father convinced a local greenhouse/nursery owner to employ him to work for her moving flats, re-potting, and landscaping. Plants and gardening were just a normal way of life.
When it came time for school, it only seemed fitting for Ryan to keep pursuing what he enjoyed doing every day. He received his Bachelor's degree in Botany and Plant Biology in 2000 from Purdue University and continued his studies at Purdue until he was awarded a Ph.D. in Genetics in 2006. He then did a post-doc in Crop Science research at the University of Illinois. Dr. Lee is currently Assistant Director in Biotechnology and a lecturer at Indiana University (Bloomington). He has published 15 articles in various scientific journals.
His research is focused on understanding the development of the plant cuticle through molecular biology and genetics. The cuticle is a waxy layer that serves as the boundary between a plant and its environment. Not only does it act to retain water, repel pathogens, and prevent UV damage but also it serves a medium through which plant cells can communicate with each other. Dr. Lee uses genetics and molecular biology to study the genes that are used to create this important matrix. He was hooked on plant molecular biology the first time he saw a tobacco plant that contained a gene from a firefly that made it glow. "Once I had seen that I knew I had to try it myself and I’m still fascinated every time I introduce a transgene into a plant causing it to drastically change its characteristics."
Although most of Dr. Lee’s work is scientific, his childhood memories of gardening have stayed with him. At home, he has multiple raised beds, vegetable and flower gardens, and a greenhouse made from recycled windows. When Dr. Lee is not gardening, you can find him pursuing anything that is handmade from drawing to woodworking. He also enjoys the great outdoors with his wife and sons.
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