Michael Barrett

Michael BarrettThe physiological basis for herbicide selectivity, herbicide mode of action (including absorption, translocation, and mechanism of action), and environmental effects on herbicide activity. Present research areas include: 1) the effect of herbicide protectants on enzyme activities, protein synthesis and herbicide metabolism; 2) environmental effects on herbicide efficacy and crop injury; 3) genetic variation in herbicide response and 4) interactions between herbicides when applied as herbicide mixtures.

Randy Dinkins

Randy Dinkins My laboratory is interested in the molecular interaction, and genes, involved in the symbiosis between tall fescue and the fungal endophyte Epichloe coenophila and how this symbiosis aids in the persistence of tall fescue under stressful conditions.  My laboratory is also interested in the molecular interaction, and genes, involved in the symbiosis between red clover with rhizobium.

David Hildebrand

David HOur research program focuses on the general area of plant biochemistry and genetics and the application of biotechnology to crop improvement with particular emphasis on food, lipid and oil quality and new uses of agricultural commodities. This research involves the identification, isolation, cloning and manipulation by plant genetic engineering of agriculturally important genes. The major research thrust is the understanding and manipulation of fatty acid metabolism and triglyceride synthesis.

Arthur Hunt

Arthur HuntOur research interests cover two main areas:

A) Messenger RNA 3' end formation and post-transcriptional events in plants. Current emphasis is on the delineation of protein interaction networks involving plant polyadenylation factor subunits, and of the different RNA-binding activities of these proteins.

B) Expression of foreign genes in plants. Several collaborative projects involving the expression of foreign genes in plants for particular purposes are in progress. These projects seek to use foreign genes as tools for analyzing biochemical and physiological phenomena in plants. 

Tomo Kawashima

Tomo Kawashima

How do plants control the seed size and number that directly link to our seed crop yield? Seed development is so complex that we still do not know what exactly is happening inside the seed during its development. Our laboratory has developed a method visualize inside the live-seed and investigate real-time seed development. Using Arabidopsis and soybean, we are now deciphering the molecular and cellular dynamics within the seed to identify what contributes to the determination of the final seed size to eventually produce larger seeds for better yield.

Luke Moe

Luke MoeWe are broadly interested in the biology and biochemistry of microbes and microbial communities in soil and associated with plants. 

These niches select for a remarkably diverse collection of bacteria and their associated biochemistry.  Here you’ll find bacteria that fix nitrogen, degrade plant material, synthesize antibiotics, degrade pollutants, and contribute essential roles in the biogeochemical cycling of organic and inorganic materials.  Because the vast majority of these bacteria cannot be cultured using traditional microbiological techniques, we know little about the biochemistry contributing to their survival under these highly variable physicochemical conditions.  

We use both culture-dependent and culture-independent methods for functional analysis of microbes; this includes the tools of genetics, genomics, metagenomics, and biochemistry.  Our aim is to understand the basic biology underlying bacterial processes and to apply this knowledge to issues in agriculture and biotechnology.

Sharyn E. Perry

Sharyn PerryMy lab is interested in identifying components of regulatory networks operating during plant embryogenesis. As a starting point, we are isolating genes that are regulated by AGL15 (for AGAMOUS-like 15). AGL15 is a member of the MADS-domain family of regulatory factors that is preferentially expressed during embryo development. We will use a combination of biochemical, molecular, genetic and structural techniques to identify genes regulated by AGL15 and to understand how the products encoded by these genes operate during seed development.

Jan Smalle

Jan SmalleMy lab studies the functions of the ubiquitin (Ub)/26S proteasome proteolytic pathway in the developmental and stress response pathways of Arabidopsis thaliana. The Ub/26S proteasome pathway is essential for cellular housekeeping as well as regulation 1. Its housekeeping and stress-defense functions involve the proteolysis of misfolded proteins, products of mistranslation and stress-induced damage that are highly toxic for the cell and need to be detected and removed rapidly. The regulatory functions of the Ub/26S proteasome pathway are based on the conditional degradation of activator and repressor proteins of various signal transduction systems. In response to external or internal stimuli, many regulatory proteins undergo posttranslational modifications that either prevent or trigger their attachment to Ub, leading to their stabilization or accelerated degradation by the proteasome.

Ling Yuan

Ling YuanThe Yuan laboratory is interested in studying the mechanisms of and engineering new functions for transcription factors (TFs) and metabolic enzymes such as cytochrome P450. Transcription factors are sequence-specific DNA binding proteins that interact with the promoter regions of target genes and modulate the rate of initiation of transcription. Plant pathways controlling biosynthesis of many bioactive secondary metabolites are regulated by one or more TFs.  Understanding how TFs recognize specific DNA sequences and the ability to utilize the knowledge to create so called “designer TFs” will greatly facilitate many aspects of bioengineering.  The desired protein functions are being generated by novel protein engineering approaches, including laboratory directed evolution, mutagenesis, and combinatorial protein synthesis.  The P450 enzymes catalyze reactions for synthesis of many high value secondary metabolites in plants and are involved in drug metabolism in mammals.  The P450 superfamily is one of the largest protein families, making it an ideal target for exploiting the gene sequence space by laboratory directed evolution.

Hongyan Zhu

Hongyan ZhuThe Zhu laboratory studies pathogenic and symbiotic plant-microbe interactions, with a special focus on legumes. His lab has engineered alfalfa for resistance to anthracnose disease using the gene cloned from the model legume Medicago truncatula. Research projects involving root symbioses include

1) functional analysis of non-legume orthologs of legume genes required for nodulation and mycorrhizal symbioses,

2) cloning and characterization of soybean and Medicago genes that control nodulation specificity, and

3) identification and cloning of Medicago genes that govern strain-specific nitrogen fixation and regulate natural variation in nitrogen fixation efficiency. 

Research Opportunities in the PSS Department

Many of our faculty offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research. Funding for these projects varies. To see current openings, please visit the posting board HERE.