BOAZ, Ala. – A former Dual Enrollment student of Snead State Community College is vying to accomplish a major feat in the science world: having his genetic research on plant cell structures published.
Over the past several months, Christopher Pinckard, of Boaz, has studied the process of cell differentiation called heterophylly. Inspired by a “mini research project” he conducted during a summer program last year at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Pinckard chose to dive into the process of cell differentiation called heterophylly.
“That’s basically when cells specifically in plants differentiate based on the environment they are placed in. So, it’s almost adaptive but a little bit different,” he said. “So, what we did was choose a common aquarium plant known as Cryptocoryne wendtii that we knew would grow both above water and underneath or submerged in the water to be completely emersed. Over the span of a few months, we let them grow and then we would break them down and look at cell structure.”
Pinckard set up two independent types of environments for the plants to grow: 1) above water and 2) submerged in the water. These induced two types of cellular growth for Pinckard study by dissecting leaves and conducting microscopy analysis.
“We were looking specifically at changes in their photosynthetic structure, like chloroplast and stuff like that,” Pinckard said. “One of the key things that we noted was the overall size and shape of the cells. Ones grown above water tended to be more square and have thicker outer walls compared to the ones grown under water, and that’s due to the physical properties of water.”
During the research process, Pinckard said Snead State professors Dr. Thomas Warren, Dr. Taylor Robertson and Dr. Josh Lang had been extremely helpful.
Now, Pinckard is driven to see his studies published.
Pinckard said he’s written a scientific paper of this magnitude, but he was excited about the challenge. Currently, he said the paper was five pages, formatted as one-sided and double column. It took him a month to write the first draft, and it is under review of Dr. Warren.
“I have been at Snead for 10 years and Chris is perhaps the brightest scientific mind that I have taught so far. Chris approached me in the Fall of 2022 about conducting research in my lab. Chris already had a plan mapped out and it fit in nicely with my former research and education. We formed a research committee consisting of Taylor Robertson, Josh Lang and myself and Chris exceeded all of our expectation in the lab with his knowledge and attention to detail. Chris plans to work towards his PhD once completing undergrad and I have no doubt his future research will bring new discoveries to the field of Biology.”
Pinckard graduated from Boaz High School this spring and also wrapped up 41 credit hours at Snead State through the College’s Dual Enrollment program, which he intends to transfer this fall to the University of Alabama in Huntsville. There, he intends to major in Biochemistry and minor in political science. Currently, Pinckard’s plan is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree and Doctorate.