Dr Emma Huang develops methods for statistical genetics in polyploids, organisms that contains more than two sets of chromosomes. Statistical genetics applies the principles of statistics to problems in genetics, such as the inheritance and effects of genes in populations.
Humans, who have two sets of chromosomes, are diploid. Polyploidy is quite common in plants, and many cultivated plants, such as wheat and sugarcane, are polyploid. Understanding their complex genetics helps crop breeders select for economically important features like sweetness or drought resistance.
Dr Huang's role is to identify features of current methods in statistical genetics which could be improved by more accurately accounting for polyploidy, generalise existing methods where possible and if necessary create new ones.
Dr Huang has been involved in several projects, including
marker map construction in novel multiple parent breeding designs, developing both methods and software to produce a high-resolution map of wheat genome structure. This map can then be used in QTL analysis to identify associations between DNA markers and quantitative traits such as disease resistance or yield, with the eventual goal of improving selection of markers for breeding.
Her research is part of the Food Futures National Research Flagship's work in Future Grains.