Using vegetable oils as a source of dietary lipids, renewable biomaterials and biofuels is increasing worldwide. Increasing seed oil production is necessary to fulfill the global demand and benefit Canada. Moreover, designer seed oils customized for specific markets would result in added value and diversification opportunities for oilseed producers. In addition, some microalgal species can accumulate high amount of lipids, fatty acids and other valuable bioproducts. Efforts to improve oil yield and quality in seeds and microalgae and to enhance oilseed crop production systems, however, are limited by our inadequate knowledge about oil formation and the lack of rationally designed biotechnology strategies.
The major objectives of Dr. Chen’s research program are (1) to enhance our understanding of vegetable oil formation and (2) to develop novel genetic engineering strategies for increasing oil yield, producing value-added specialty oils, and producing other bioproducts in higher plants, microalgae and yeast. He is also interested in developing oil crops with improved agronomic characteristics (e.g. abiotic and biotic stress tolerance, seed yield, protein content and quality) through biotechnology. In addition, he is collaborating with colleagues on other projects such as improving stress tolerance and oil content in forage crops.