By Lauren Hines | Bond LSC
Bing Stacey works on her soybean genetics papers in her office with the company of a plant on the windowsill and a large tropical photo of the Philippines on the second floor of Bond LSC. For the past few years, Bing Stacey has been working towards uncovering the secrets of soybean genes.
That work aims to identify what different genes do within the soybean genome so that they can be manipulated and create higher crop yields. Soybeans are a major source of cooking oil and protein in animal feeds.
Even though Bing Stacey has been at Bond LSC for over a decade as part of the lab of her husband, Gary Stacey, she got her own lab about six years ago when she received her own funding.
Walter Gassmann, interim director for Bond LSC, collaborated with Bing on a project when she was still part of the Gary Stacey lab.
“I said she worked in Gary’s lab, but she was very much the driver of that project,” Gassmann said. “It’s not like she needed to be told what to do. She’s a very experienced biologist.”
Bing Stacey started her research career abroad as a research assistant at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. In 1989, she went to school in Vermont and quickly transferred after finding how cold Vermont was. By the way, she says Missouri is slightly better.
After getting her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Tennessee, she found her interest in plants during her post doctorate. Finally, in 2002, Bing found herself at Bond LSC.
“I see my research as facilitating gene discovery to improve agronomic traits of soybeans,” Bing Stacey said.
Currently Bing Stacey’s work identifies which genes are responsible for which phenotypes or physical traits in soybean plants.
“The genome of the soybean is pretty complex and redundant,” Bing Stacey said. “So, it’s kind of hard to discover genes that are important for improving agronomic traits of soybean.”
More specifically, she is studying possible genes that could control plant size and the number of seeds in each pod.
So far, she has found the gene controls for vitamin E content and the gene that matches a quantitative trait locus (QTL) found in another study.
“There is a major QTL that has been published,” Bing Stacey said. “The Chinese actually have been mapping them. I think we have the gene for that QTL…So, my research has the potential to get to the genes that are influencing important agronomic traits.”
Bing Stacey uses fast neutron and CRISPR CAS9 methods to target certain genes and prove they are responsible for causing a certain physical trait. Fast neutron and CRISPR are helpful because they’re able to locate, target and edit specific genes to establish relationships between traits and their genes.
She says she’s “really quite excited” and “strongly believes” in these methods for achieving her goals.
After having the chance to go her own way, Bing Stacey has found success in her work.
“I was very glad for her to get that non tenure track position a few years ago,” Gassmann said. “She’s always been independent minded, and now she has more independence.”
Even though Bing Stacey has already made great strides in finding the links between phenotypes and genes in the soybean genome, there is still a lot left to uncover.
“I think it’s the discovery,” Bing Stacey said. “[I really like] the discovery of new knowledge that comes with science.”