Plant Biology

Research includes:

  • Biofuels
  • Cell Biology and Morphogenesis
  • Cell Metabolism
  • Cell Signaling
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Plant Biology
  • Plant Biotechnology
  • Plant Interaction with the Environment
  • Plant Interaction with the Pathogens

Training Group Mission:

The Plant Biology graduate program provides an opportunity for students to study a diverse array of aspects of plant sciences, including growth and development, cell biology, reproduction, physiology, metabolism, and gene expression. Students are provided with a broad-based curriculum that focuses on the study of basic plant sciences. Students conduct research employing multidisciplinary approaches to examine the biology of plants including molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics. The research of the Plant Biology group emphasizes basic plant sciences; however, many students are involved in projects that evaluate the biotechnological opportunities that stem from their research.


Faculty Membership

Faculty
Research Area
Plant development and evolution
Cell and Developmental Biology; Cell-Cell Signaling; Gamete Biology and Plant Fertilization
Biochemistry and molecular biology of plant secondary metabolism
Plant disease resistance; regulation of gene expression and signal transduction during plant defense responses to microbial pathogens

Plant-insect chemical ecology, biochemical spectroscopy, ecosystem ecology.

Genetics Evolution Hormones Metabolism Environmental Adaptation
Plant primary and secondary metabolism
Mechanism of the transfer to and expression of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens Ti-plasmid in plant cells
Signal transduction, Transcription and gene regulation, High temperature stress, Growth factors/hormones/polyamines, Plant growth and development, Senescence, Phytonutrients, Fruit quality and postharvest shelf life
Root-Microbe Interactions and Root Development
Signaling in Pollination; Developmental Genetics; Cell Biology
Epigenetic regulation of transposable elements
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Comparative, Evolutionary, and Translational Genomics
Genetic mechanisms of tree growth
Molecular Genetics of Plant Immunity - with emphasis on host defense response to necrotrophic fungi
Water use efficiency, plant nutrition, crop physiology
The focus of our groups activities is the analysis and manipulation of metabolic pathways. With an increased understanding of the regulation of metabolism, scientists and engineers can rationally manipulate pathways to produce novel compounds or increase the production of specialty compounds. Quantifying metabolic flux is a critical technology that forms the basis for rational metabolic engineering. Our group has been developing the mathematical modeling and experimental tools for the particularly difficult problem of quantifying fluxes in photoautotrophic organisms. We also engineer cyanobacteria to overproduce valuable amino acids.

Ecological and evolutionary genetics: adaptation and adaptive traits (especially freezing tolerance and flowering time); heterosis; plant mating system evolution.

Regulation of cell identity, signal transduction, chromatin remodeling

My research focuses on elucidating biogeographic and evolutionary mechanisms of biodiversity patterns in the context of global change, notably biological invasions and climate change, with the aim of illuminating how these disturbances affect plant diversity across rapidly changing landscapes. Using interdisciplinary approaches across the fields of biogeography, ecology, evolution, and data science, my work explores multiple facets of past, present, and future biodiversity to address the grand challenge of mitigating anthropogenic influence on the world's ecosystems.

Our laboratory studies the genetic and molecular control mechanisms plants and algae employ, under some conditions, to make use of every photon that is available for photosynthesis, whilst in others to protect the photosynthetic machinery from excess light.
Cytoskeletal function during plant and fungal development and in response to environmental signals
Computational and experimental analyses of multi-scale growth control: from protein complexes to cells, tissues, and organs.
The lab is interested in plant transcriptional responses to environmental stimuli. Particularly, our interest is in the gene networks governing transcriptional responses and how these networks are altered when plants adapt to their environment.
Maize genetics, genomics, value-added traits

The Widhalm laboratory (@WidhalmLab) uses functional genomics approaches with synthetic biology tools to advance basic knowledge of plant metabolism. The goal of our research is to translate discoveries of new pathway genes and novel findings about pathway architecture and regulation to design metabolic engineering strategies for applications relevant to sustainable agriculture and toward improving human health. We are particularly interested in specialized plant quinones, compounds which have emerged as targets for developing novel natural product-based herbicides and novel therapeutic cancer drugs. In addition to gene discovery, we are working to understand the subcellular organization of specialized quinone pathways and their connections with primary metabolism.

Evolution of eukaryotic chemodiversity using genomics, network biology, and phylogenetics
Phytohormone ethylene biosynthesis and its signaling pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana
Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on two areas: 1) elucidating the physiological and molecular roles of plant vascular tissues in normal or stress condition and 2) improving crop yield and stress resistance via biotechnological approaches.
Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic soil-borne roundworms, they infect and damage plant roots causing annual crop losses valued at $80-$118 billion worldwide. With most of front-line nematicides being banned due to their extreme toxicity, it is urgent to develop new methods for nematode control. We focus on two groups of plant-parasitic nematodes: 1) Soybean cyst nematode (SCN), the most damaging pathogen of soybean in the US. We study distributions and virulence of SCN populations on soybean fields in Indiana to provide information to growers for effective SCN management. We are also interested in developing new bio-control agents for SCN. 2) Root-knot nematodes (RKNs) cause serious problems in melons and vegetables in Indiana. RKNs secrete effector proteins to root cells to facilitate their infection of plants. Our lab focuses on studying how nematode effectors manipulate plant processes at molecular levels during parasitism. Our goal is to translate the knowledge and develop crop resistance against RKNs by disrupting the molecular plant-nematode interactions using technologies such as gene editing and host-delivered RNAi.
Research Area: Plant stem cells, transcriptional signaling in plant development, cell-cell communication, live imaging, quantitative developmental biology Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Ernest C. Young Hall, Room 170 | 155  S. Grant Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2114 | 765-494-2600

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