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Faculty Research Areas

 

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Faculty research in Plant Biology is centered in four main areas: Cell Biology and Physiology; Biochemistry and Metabolism; Genetics and Evolution; and Environmental, Ecological and Integrative research. In addition, PB faculty are involved in several interdepartmental / interdisciplinary groups on campus: The Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE) research training group; The Institute for Massachusetts Biofuel Research (TIMBR) and the Brachypodium Consortium.

Cell Biology and Physiology
The research interests of our faculty encompass a broad range of subjects within cell biology and physiology. Broadly defined, the research in this group focuses on understanding how proteins and sets of proteins are assembled and integrated to produce function at the cellular, tissue, and whole organism level. The focus is on fundamental research in plant cytoskeleton, cell wall, signal transduction, the assembly and disassembly of macromolecular complexes, and the function of transporters. Our faculty use a variety of techniques to explore these essential processes in both model organisms and agronomically important species. Cellular imaging is a particular strength of the program*.

Tobias Baskin - Regulation of plant cell and organ expansion
Magdalena Bezanilla - The role of the actin cytoskeleton in the morphogenesis and development of plant cells
Maura Cannon -
Plant growth and development as influenced by cell wall assembly
Alice Cheung - Signaling mechanisms in plant growth and reproduction
Susan Han - Physiology of flowering and postharvest care of floricultural crops

Peter Hepler (emeritus) - Cell division and pollen tube growth; the role of calcium, pH, and the cytoskeleton
Danny Schnell - Intracellular protein targeting and chloroplast biogenesis
Elizabeth Vierling - Molecular chaperone function in the cytosol and organelles, plant stress response
Lawrence J. Winship, Hampshire College - regulation of cell wall expansion during oscillatory growth in lily pollen tubes

*Our microscopy facility offers access to microscopes and/or microscopy services to the entire research community. Please see the home page of the UMass Central Microscopy Facility for more information.

Biochemistry and Metabolism
The research interests of Plant Biology faculty encompass many aspects of plant biochemistry.  With an increasing number of sequenced genomes, come increased opportunities to come to a fundamental understanding of protein function, and to manipulate gene function to produce desirable compounds.  Approaches used by faculty in this area include profiling of gene expression (transcriptomics), protein expression (proteomics), and metabolites (metabolomics); metabolic engineering, and investigation of assembly of protein “machines”.

Sam Hazen - Regulatory networks and natural variation in plant cell wall biosynthesis
Jennifer Normanly - Metabolic regulation and engineering
Om Parkash - Plant genetic engineering and biotechnology, phytoremediation of soil contaminants 
Susan Roberts - Optimization of secondary metabolite accumulation in cell cultures
Danny Schnell - Intracellular protein targeting and chloroplast biogenesis
Elizabeth Vierling - Molecular chaperone function in the cytosol and organelles, plant stress response   
Elsbeth Walker - Molecular genetics of taxol synthesis in plant cell cultures
Dong Wang - Mechanisms of intracellular symbiosis between eukaryotic legume hosts and nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Genetics and Evolution
Plant Biology faculty engage in the study of genetics and evolution at many levels, from the study of individual genes and gene function, to whole genome evolution, to the evolution of plant form and function.  Faculty in this area have special interests in gene discovery using mutational analysis, genome evolution and population genetics, and the evolution of form and function in the plant kingdom.

Madelaine Bartlett - Diversity of shape and form present in flowering plants
Ana Caicedo - Evolutionary genomics of adaptation and divergence in wild, weedy and crop plant species
Geunhwa Jung - Comparative genome analysis and genetic mapping of quantitative trait loci for disease resistance in turfgrass and cereals
Li-Jun Ma - Fungal comparative genomics in understanding genetic innovation and organism adaptation through evolution
Jill Miller, Amherst College - Ecology and evolution of plant sexual systems, floral evolution, incompatibility systems, phenotypic plasticity
Ludmila Tyler - Plant cell walls, bioenergy, grass developmental biology
Elsbeth Walker - Genetics of metal ion allocation in plants

Environmental, Ecological and Integrative
This focus area deals with the organismal to community levels of plant biology and bridges basic and applied research.  The PB faculty in this focus area have special interests in plant-insect interactions, invasive plant species, clonal plants, desiccation tolerance, coastal vegetation, air pollution biology, urban environment and plant growth, plant diseases, forest ecology, reproductive biology, local floristics, and conservation.  Research systems include active and abandoned agricultural fields, coastal grassland, and managed and natural deciduous forests, heathlands, and bogs.

Lynn Adler -Ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions
Peter Alpert - Ecology of plant invasion, resource capture and utilization by clonal plants
Anne Averill - Insect pollinators and pollination services in managed ecosystems
Wes Autio -Cropping and economic efficiency of fruit trees on various rootstocks and under different cultural management systems
Allen Barker - Plant nutrition
Prasanta Bhowmik - Biology of invasive weeds, allelopathy, integrated weed management
Daniel Cooley - Ecology of plant diseases, integrated pest management, sustainable agriculture
Lyle Craker - Medicinal and aromatic plants
Michelle DaCosta - Plant responses to environmental stresses, with emphasis on drought and temperature stresses of grasses.
Scott Ebdon - Cultural management of abiotic and biotic stresses in turfgrass systems
Aaron Ellison - Community ecology
Masoud Hashemi - Sustainable food and farming systems with an emphasis on cover crops
Martha Hoopes - Spread dynamics, impacts, and lag times in invasion ecology; metacommunity dynamics, particularly for plants and herbivores
Geunhwa Jung - Population genetics of plant pathogenic "sterile" fungi (do not produce any known spores, either sexual or asexual)
Li-Jun Ma - Fungal comparative genomics in understanding genetic innovation and organism adaptation through evolution
Frank Mangan Vegetable production with an emphasis on soil fertility and ethnic crops
William Manning - Plant response to air pollutants with emphasis on plant/microbe interactions, bioindicators, biomarkers 
Jill Miller, Amherst College - Ecology and evolution of plant sexual systems, floral evolution, incompatibility systems, phenotypic plasticity
Robert Wick - Bacterial and fungal diseases of vegetable and greenhouse crops, nematode diseases of turf, plant disease diagnostics

Baoshan Xing - Environmental behavior of emerging contaminants and their interactions with plants


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