Undergraduate Biology student, Brad Orpano, doing research in the Cheng Lab.

Cheng Lab Research

Meet an Undergrad in the Lab: Brad Orpano

Research Description:

Dr. Cheng's research lab works on the model fern, Ceratopteris richardii. In her lab, undergraduates learn lab techniques for working with plants in a research setting. Currently, all of her undergraduate students work on their own projects. Each of these projects are unique in their own way but contributes to the main question in her research. Dr. Cheng’s lab group also participates in a journal club where graduate and undergraduate students give presentations on recently published scientific journal articles.

When did Brad start in the lab?

The fall of 2015


Biology with a concentration in plant biology.

Background before Brad started working in the lab:

"I didn't have any research background. I was originally a biochemistry major but for research, I wanted to work on plants. I went to talk to a professor working on plant research, and she told me that I had to change my major to biology if I wanted to do plant research."

Why Brad chose this lab?

"I knew I wanted to work with plants, so I emailed Dr. Cheng. Later, I met with her and our interest matched."

Projects Completed in the lab:

"I started cleaning dishes and growing wild-type fern. By growing wild-type plants, I was able to observe the morphology and get accustomed to working with plants.

My projects, for the most part, have been individual but I have had assistance from the graduate students working in the lab. I made a plant line containing genetic materials from an unrelated organism (transgenic) causing a knockout of a transcription factor for meristem development and asexual reproduction.

For my third project, I made a different transgenic plant line that caused the ferns to be tetraploid (nucleus containing four sets of chromosomes). From this line, I started staining the tetraploids using in situ hybridization and DNA fluorescent dye.

Lastly, I have been utilizing bioinformatics with the transcriptome for the fern and its gene expression analysis data."

What Brad wants to do in the future:

"I am hoping to stay in the Cheng lab for my master's in biology."

What Brad wishes he knew before starting in a lab:

"I wish I had known that research work wasn't as formal as it's conceived to be."