Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Yongjian Qiu

Second Advisor

Annie Cafer

Third Advisor

Colin Jackson

Relational Format



Plants can sense the change of 1 oC in their growth environment and thus global climate change has a great impact on plant growth and development. The phenomenon that warm non-stress temperatures promote stem and petiole elongation, as well as leaf hyponastic growth, is collectively known as thermomorphogenesis. While it is known that the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor PIF4 is highly inducible by temperature elevations and controls thermomorphogenesis in dicots (e.g., Arabidopsis thaliana), the molecular mechanism underlying thermomorphogenetic growth in monocots is not clear. In this study, I identify PIF4 orthologs in several economically important monocotyledonous species and demonstrate that the expression of one rice and one sorghum PIF4 ortholog is also thermo-inducible. Moreover, conserved motifs in the promoters of these PIF4 orthologs are identified and they may serve as potential binding sites for key transcription factors that regulate PIF4 transcription under warming conditions. Therefore, this study lays the groundwork for future studies in developing climate-change-resistant crops.

Additionally, sociological research on the prevalence of, impact of, and solutions to food insecurity (FI) at the University of Mississippi was conducted. The national rate of FI is approximately 10%, while the rate among postsecondary students is estimated to be about 40%. FI has many negative impacts on physical and mental wellbeing. In order to assess FI at the University of Mississippi, a survey was distributed to students. Results indicate that approximately 41% of students are food insecure while 16.8% are highly food insecure. Food insecurity was correlated with factors such as the lack of a financial safety net, worsened academic performance, and the need for a paid job (which may have the downstream impact of decreasing post-graduation employability and social mobility). Additionally, students that were food insecure also reported struggling with issues such as mental illness. An assessment of Grove Grocery (the University’s food pantry) was also performed, which found that it is capable of providing acute relief for food insecurity but that it is an inadequate long-term solution. Suggestions were made to administration and pantry leaders, including that a holistic approach to student wellbeing be taken, that existing campus resources be supported and advertised, and that issues of student wellbeing such as FI be addressed before they progress to emergency situations.

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