My research focus is on functional foods—designing crops to deliver more than mere calories—by both adding nutritional compounds and eliminating anti-nutritional compounds. I work on enhancing seeds of two of the most globally important crops, soybean and corn.
Monica Schmidt is an Associate Professor in the School of Plant Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona. Dr. Schmidt’s research interests are in both functional foods and functional genomics. Her research aims at applying molecular biology and genetic techniques to help alleviate current major agricultural problems. As soybean is a global commodity, much of her research focuses on soybean seed traits. Current research is investigating cellular mechanisms to strengthen the metabolic engineering efforts to fortify crops with nutraceutical carotenoids. Since soybean oil is a large component of the American diet, Dr. Schmidt is also investigating means to engineer a more healthy oil composition. Other functional food projects aim at the suppression of deleterious compounds in crops, such as toxins produced from contaminating fungus, in maize and peanuts. She uses techniques of plant biotechnology in over a dozen crops to investigate gene function, at a cellular and entire plant level. Dr. Schmidt has worked with both domestic and international collaborators on value-added traits in seeds of legumes for over a decade and is one of the few academic laboratories that can routinely transform soybean. She has been involved with a number of innovations in tissue culture / transformation techniques (for example, maturation media for soybean, novel gene expression cassette system) and her research on seed manipulation has resulted in a start-up company and patents. Keywords: plant biotechnology, functional foods, soybean, maize