Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Materials Science and Engineering


Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Micheal Bartlett


The food supply has been one of the big challenges for our society in this century. Increasing of world population and climate change could create more stress on food supply and biomass production. To solve the challenge, the relationship between environment and plants needs to be understood. However, most of plant studies are still conducted in the lab, in which the results are not necessarily representative of field conditions because only few experimental tools can mimic field soil with controlled condition. We believe that, as engineers, we can provide plants scientists with tools which can mimic soil and provide physiological condition for the growth of plants, but under environments that are controlled in both their abiotic (water availability, nutrient concentration, pH, stiffness, etc.) or biotic components.

Here we describe two tools to mimic soil in terms of both structure and nutrients. The hydrogel based transparent soil can provide the physiological porous soil structure for plant with known nutrient availability while providing easy phenotyping of roots in vivo. The soil extract can used as a plant growth medium which can provide the soil organic matter. By applying these tools, hypotheses on the genetic interplay with environmental factors to yield plant phenotypes can be addressed inside the laboratory.


Copyright Owner

Lin Ma



File Format


File Size

103 pages

Available for download on Saturday, January 07, 2023