Jan 26, 2022
Researcher studies transforming tomatoes with molecular biotechnology

James Duduit, a North Carolina State University horticultural science doctoral student, utilizes molecular biotechnology to transform tomatoes and improve the crop’s resistance to bacterial wilt and other common pathogens.

Molecular biotechnology has many crop applications and is seen as a critical area of research because it increases the speed at which new varieties are developed.

Originally from Anderson, South Carolina, James Duduit studied Biology at Anderson University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, before attending North Carolina State for his master of horticultural science degree. It was Wusheng Liu’s expertise in molecular biotechnology and translational genomics that convinced Duduit to stay and advance his doctoral degree.

James Duduit’s research efforts were recently awarded by U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Program with a fellowship at NC State.

What brought you to NC State?

NC State seemed to have the broadest opportunities available for what I was interested in. The personnel with their diversity of expertise and experiences here has proven invaluable to my growth as an academic and scientist.

What are you doing now in research? What’s next?

My main focus right now is in trying to find a broadly applicable solution for the broad damage caused by bacterial wilt, especially in tomatoes. Using molecular biotechnology approaches, we hope that this economically devastating pathogen can be better mitigated.

Another project that we are working on is related to a unique transformational technology for tomato and sweetpotato in order to increase the breeding speed with which new varieties can be developed. Our lab prioritizes biotechnological approaches to a broad diversity of horticulturally-relevant plants to overcome current challenges in pathogen/disease resistance, crop yield, transformation efficiency, and many other imposing but rewarding tasks.

How are you transforming challenges into opportunities?

Research is always a problem-solving process with unlimited challenges, but opportunities always naturally arise from these situations. I hope to critically think about each option and roadblock when performing experiments so that I can learn and make innovative and informative decisions throughout all of my actions. In addition, open communication with members of my lab and in the department allows a diversity of perspectives to be heard for more robust strategies to be employed.

What impact do you hope to have with your research?

My goal is to continue pushing the edge of our understanding in plant molecular biotechnology so that more enabling tools and choices can be developed for the betterment of growers and consumers. I hope that my work with tomato and sweetpotatoes can speed up cultivar development times to ultimately lead to cheaper and better products for consumers. And with my work in tomatoes, that the dangerous bacterial wilt disease can be better mitigated so that growers around the world can be benefited.

– Brandon Hopper, North Carolina State University

James Duduit, a molecular biotechnology researcher and doctoral student in the Department of Horticultural Science. Photo: North Carolina State University

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