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So whats a genetic engineer always do? did they just sit inside the lab all day doing research everyday?

Submitted by: Joshua Kenway


Expert response from Sivamani Elumalai

Senior Team Leader – Transgenic Technology Team, Syngenta

Friday, 08/25/2017 12:19

Other than research, our work starts at the design of a plasmid vector that contains a gene cassette that we want to introduce in a plant genome. Once the plasmid vector design is completed, it is synthesized by bringing together several DNA components together thru a bio-chemical reaction. When the plasmid vector is made, the several components are verified by restriction endonuclease digestion reactions and/or thru DNA sequencing. After this verification is completed, the plasmid vector is transformed into an Agrobacterium strain that we use as a tool to move the gene cassette(s) in the plasmid vector into the plant nucleus. Alternatively the plasmid DNA could be made and purified in large quantities for transformation experiments using gene gun bombardment. Next step is plant cell transformation for which we prepare large amounts of plant cells thru tissue culture and either inoculate them with the Agrobacterium containing the new gene cassette or bombard the cells using a gene gun to deliver the gene cassette. Several rounds of tissue cultures are then completed to raise transgenic plants that will contain the new gene cassette that we introduced. After raising the transgenic plants, tests such as PCR, ELISA, Southern blot etc. are performed to further confirm the presence and functionality of the newly introduced gene cassette in the transgenic plants. These transgenic plants are then transferred to a green house and cared for until they set seeds. The seeds of the transgenic plants are then handed over to plant breeders for further analysis in greenhouse/field. That’s in a nutshell what a genetic engineer would do typically at work.          


Besides, genetic engineers like myself have other activities like a normal office going employee. We have hobbies like others do. My hobbies are photography, gardening and cooking. In spring and summer after work, I tend to my garden and cater the needs of birds in my backyard. I grew zucchini, okra, tomato, string beans, bitter melon, cucumber, radish and sunflower in my yard this season. I try new recipes with these veggies. While cooking, I setup my camera in the porch and shoot some birds in action. Please visit my Facebook page for some of these recipes and pictures. Of course while I do these activities, my mind always hovers around biotechnology and learning about what’s new in the field, and how I could utilize such novel ideas in my research.