Assistant/ Associate Professor – Belowground Plant Ecology/ Root Microbial Interactions
Haines Family Professorship in Plant Biology
Alumnus Jeffery Cannon during a field exercise for a Wildland Firefighter Course in Nashville, GA (2014).
Loren Rieseberg, John Burke, Lisa Donovan, Brent Hulke, Andries Temme, Rishi Masalia exploring the deserts of Southern California (2015).
Crowd at the Athens Science Café with chef Hugh Acheson, Botanical Gardens, 2015
Uma Nagendra is the overall winner of 2014 “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest. http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2014/11/dance-your-ph-d-winner-announced
Alumnus Steve Franks is a professor at Fordham University in NY.
News on current and former faculty, staff, postdocs, and students at UGA Department of Plant Biology.
Assistant/ Associate Professor – Belowground Plant Ecology/ Root Microbial Interactions
Haines Family Professorship in Plant Biology
Professor of Plant Biology Jim Leebens-Mack was recognized as one of three UGA plant scientists who were named as AAAS fellows. Dr. Leebens-Mack was named an AAAS fellow for his contributions to plant evolutionary biology and comparative genomics. See more HERE.
Jonathan Dees, Carrie Pucko, and Wendy Zomlefer received special invitations to share dinner on 9 November with the "sisters" of Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority. Sorority members invite their favorite professors in appreciation of superior instruction and guidance. Eighteen faculty and ca. 60 ZTA members attended, and Plant Biology was the only department represented by more than one faculty member! Zeta Tau Alpha takes pride in their high overall chapter GPA (3.53) and their philanthropic efforts focused on raising funds for breast cancer education and research.
Jim Leebens-Mack, a professor of Plant Biology, and PBIO PhD alumnus Alex Harkess were featured in an article on PHYS.org about their research, which was recently published in Nature Communications. They have sequenced the genome of garden asparagus as a model for sex chromosome evolution, which not only gives insight into asparagus breeding but also helps answer questions about the origin and early evolution of sex chromosomes.
Four of our faculty members (Lisa Donovan, John Burke, Katrien Devos, and C.J. Tsai) were featured in a UGA Research article on "Building better plants." Check out the full article here.
Ella Vardeman, a junior majoring in Plant Biology, is the recipient of the 2017 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Undergraduate Research. The Georgia Museum of Natural History administers this student award for field or collections-oriented research in natural history. The $1,000 award will cover Ella's registration and travel expenses to attend the 79th annual meeting of The Association of Southeastern Biologists (Myrtle Beach, SC; March 2018) with PBio faculty mentor Wendy Zomlefer. Ella will present her herbarium project, Flora of Stone Mountain, Georgia, Based on Digitized Spec
Alumnus Christopher Benson (BS, 2017) is now working as a Research Technician in the Genomic Medicine Institute within the Lerner Research Institute on the Main Campus of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. The Genomic Medicine Institue (GMI) core is composed of several research laboratories including clinical components such as the Genomics Core, Genomic Medicine Biorepository (GMB), and the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare. The GMB is a full service processing and banking unit that services the GMI, the Cleveland Clinic, and outside collaborators. As a technic
This past summer, Kirsten Allen, an undergraduate PBIO minor, participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Kentucky's College of Pharmacy under her PI, Dr. Steven Van Lanen. She engaged in antibiotic drug discovery research isolating natural products from bacteria and characterizing enzymes involved in their synthesis - specifically new types of sulfotransferases used to build the bacterial cell wall. In the future, Kirsten plans to conduct more research in grad school centered around drug discovery from plants and other natural products.
Congratulations to all of the award winners for oral presentations and posters at our 2017 Student Symposium. And thank you to all those who participated!
Awards for Oral Presentations by Graduate Students
Rishi (from the Burke lab) received the Wilbur Duncan Award for 2017. This award recognizes a PBIO graduate student's excellence in two of three areas: research, teaching and service to the department. Rishi's research on the genetic basis of drought resistance in sunflower has resulted in one publication, two manuscript submissions and presentations at national and international meetings.
Ashley and Alex (both from the Donovan lab) each received an Outstanding Teaching Award from UGA's Center for Teaching and Learning. This award recognizes TAs or LAs who have demonstrated superior teaching skills while serving as an instructor of the classroom or laboratory. Departments may nominate up to 10% of their TAs or LAs for this award. Congrats, Ashley and Alex!
Dr. John Burke was featured in a UGA Today news article as being part of an international team that has published the first sunflower genome sequence. This sequence will assist future research programs to help improve crop resilience and oil production. The team published their findings in the journal Nature and you can read it HERE. Nice job, Dr. Burke!
Graduate student Jess Stephens' Pecha Kucha style presentation titled "Show me the way: Future faculty prefer directive feedback when trying active learning approaches" received the Best Research Informing Practice Award at the Scientists Engaged in Education Research (SEER) Spring Research Forum. The SEER Center includes faculty, postdocs, and graduate students across the University of Georgia who perform research in collegiate STEM education. More information about SEER can be found here (https://seercenter.uga.edu/). Way to go, Jess!!
Congratulations to Susan Watkins, PBIO Admissions Counselor II for our Graduate Program, and Richard Hare, IT Professional Specialist for Franklin College and PBIO specifically! Both Susan and Richard won highly selective awards from Franklin College yesterday at the Staff Appreciation Reception.
Alex Johnson, a 4th year graduate student in the Devos lab, has been awarded a 2-year USDA-AFRI pre-doctoral fellowship on “The role of microRNAs in regulating arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal colonization levels in switchgrass.” In recent years, around 40% of U.S corn cultivation has been allocated to biofuel production. Reducing the burden on agricultural lands to fuel the United States is a current goal for plant scientists. Switchgrass, a herbaceous bioenergy feedstock, is well suited to grow on poor soils.
Pbio graduate students Uma Nagendra (mentor: Chris Peterson), Alex Pilote (mentor: Michelle Momany), and Jess Stephens (mentor: Peggy Brickman) received the Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching at a reception held by the UGA Teaching Academy. Pbio was well represented as they were 3 of only 13 graduate students that completed the requirements for the teaching certificate. More information about the program/requirements can be found HERE. Way to go!
Kevin Tarner, a Research Technician III in our PBIO greenhouses, recently starred in an episode of Ranger Nick, hosted by Dr. Nick Fuhrman, UGA Professor with the Agricultural Leadership department. On this episode, Kevin and Ranger Nick talked about carnivorous plants and they featured plants in our PBIO greenhouses. The Ranger Nick show is produced monthly for the Georgia Farm Monitor and features agriculture and wildlife-related topics.
Congratulations to PBIO graduate student John Spiekerman for winning 2nd place in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition held at Cine on April 6th. This competition helps develop academic, presentation, and research communication skills and supports the development of students’ capacities to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience. Master’s and doctoral students have three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis or dissertation topic and its significance.
Mariel Pfeifer, a first-year PhD student in the Khang lab, received an NSF GRFP Fellowship for her STEM Education and Learning research proposal. Mariel received her B.S. in Microbiology and B.A. in Biology/Secondary Education from the University of Wyoming. At UGA, Mariel pursues both biology education and bench research. Her biology education research focuses on the experiences of students with disabilities in STEM courses. Her bench work focuses on the dynamics of mitotic nuclear migration in the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae. Mariel is co-advised by Dr.
Congrats to the undergrads who represented the Plant Biology department at this year's 2017 CURO Symposium: Alex Smith and Rebecca Sussman (under the mentorship of Ashley Rea of the Donovan lab), Liana Mosley (under the mentorship of Rishi Masalia of the Burke lab), and Grace Manning (under the mentorship of Andries Temme of the Donovan lab). The annual CURO Symposium highlights excellence in undergraduate research at UGA through students' oral and poster sessions. Way to go, everyone!
Eric Goolsby, a former graduate student in the Donovan lab, is now a postdoc at Brown U. with Erika Edwards. His postdoc proposal to NSF has been recommeded for funding: "Identifying the genetic determinants of photosynthetic pathways in Portulaca: development of germplasm and genetic resources." All plants perform one of three types of photosynthesis. Two of these confer substantial stress tolerance, particularly under heat or drought stress.
Caitlin, a PBIO grad student, received a 2017 UGA Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award, administered in collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning and the UGA Teaching Academy. This award was established to honor teaching assistants and laboratory assistants who have excelled in the performance of their teaching responsibilities. It is given to no more than five recipients each year. Congratulations on this honor, Caitlin!
Dr. Natalie Nannas, a postdoctoral fellow in Kelly Dawe's lab, has recently accepted a faculty position at Hamilton College beginning fall of 2017. She will be continuing her research on chromosome segregation and teaching genetics, molecular biology and bioethics at Hamilton. Way to go, Natalie!!
Last week, Kevin Tarner (one of our greenhouse personnel) and Chera Watts (our undergrad advisor) took a group of incoming transfer and other interested students on a tour of our greenhouses. About 20 students showed up for the tour and they were each given goodie bags and free plants. Kevin walked them through the permanent collections and then introduced the students to some of the research taking place in other greenhouses. What a fun tour!
Sara Dorhmi graduated this semester with a BS in Plant Biology. As an undergrad, Sara co-authored a video article in Fungal Genetics and Biology, received a CURO Research Assistantship, and received a PBIO Undergraduate Research Award, which she used to research blast disease in the Khang lab. She was also on the Dean's List and a Plant Center Undergraduate Presenter. Way to go, Sara!
Somer Rowe graduated this semester with a BS in Plant Biology and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society. As an undergrad, she received two Plant Biology Undergraduate Research Awards to do independent research in the Malmberg and Peterson labs. She also worked for two years in the UGA Herbarium. Somer will begin a job as a research professional at the UGA experimental station in Griffin Georgia doing plant physiology and plant breeding research. Congrats Somer!
Crowdsourcing science? Check out this cool experiment.com project on spore dormancy from Earl Kang, PBIO and Fungal Biology Group grad student in Momany lab.
Callie Oldfield was one of eleven recipients of a UGA Campus Sustainability grant through this year's Sustainability Grant competition. The Sustainability Grant competition is an annual competition for undergraduate and graduate students to propose innovative ideas that improve research, education or integration of sustainability in and around campus. Awards are evaluated by a committee and given on the basis of merit and potential impact. You can see the website, with the 2017 grant recipients here.
Congrats to Dr. Kathrin Stanger-Hall for her new NSF award to study fireflies “Shedding light on firefly phylogenetic systematics and the evolution of their sexual signal types.” This is part of a large collaborative grant with BYU and UFL (Fall 2017- 2021). Way to go!!
Ariane Wong (Genetics major) has also been awarded a CURO research scholarship for Spring 2017. Ariane will study pollen dispersal patterns in natural populations of a spring flower native to GA -- the wild geranium, Geranium maculatum. She will be mentored by a graduate student, Dorothy Christopher, in the Chang lab.
Undergrads Alex Smith (Plant Biology major) and Rebecca Sussman (Biology major) have each been awarded a CURO Research Assistantship of $1000 for Spring 2017 to do research mentored by graduate student Ashley Rea in the Donovan lab. They will be assessing the underlying components of nutrient use efficiency in cultivated sunflower for phosphorous (Alex) and nitrogen (Becca). Way to go!!
Garrett Vollino was awarded a Research Assistantship from CURO (Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities) at UGA for his research during Fall 2016 on characterizing the signaling environment of fireflies ($1,000).
Pearl Shah was awarded a Research Assistantship from CURO (Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities) at UGA for her research during Spring 2017 on the biogeography of Pyractomena fireflies ($1,000).
The Atlas of Georgia Plants portal, with images of specimens from the University of Georgia Herbarium (GA) and Valdosta State University Herbarium (VSC), has been available for several months. The portal is hosted by Louisiana State University. The digitization work has been funded by a series of NSF grants to GA Herbarium curator Wendy Zomlefer, including a large collaborative NSF grant to UGA (Zomlefer and David Giannasi) and Valdosta State University (Curator Richard Carter).
Assistant or Associate Professor, full-time, tenure-track at Univ. of Georgia, Department of Plant Biology, starting August 2017. The successful applicant will address fundamental ecological and evolutionary questions in plant ecology with an emphasis on plant roots and their interactions with the environment, other plants, soil organisms (e.g. fungi, bacteria, herbivores) and/or soil processes (e.g. carbon, nutrient and water cycling). Field based research should be integrated with other approaches (e.g. modeling, computational, molecular, genomic).
Congratulations to Lisa Donovan, our Plant Biology Department Head and Distinguished Research Professor, for being chosen as a 2016-2017 Women's Leadership Fellow!
The Women's Leadership Fellows Program is administered by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and is part of the Women's Leadership Initiative. The fellows were chosen through nominations made by deans, other senior administrators and self-nominations. This is an extraordinary honor and achievement. Congrats, Lisa!!
Chera Watts, the academic advisor for Plant Biology, represented our department at the Discovery Showcase Majors Fair held on October 19 in the Tate Student Center. Chera shared information about our major, research opportunities and classes with interested undergraduates. She also gave out succulent plants and other PBIO swag. Way to represent, Chera!
Rebecca (Shirk) Kartzinel, who earned her PhD under the mentorship of Jim Hamrick, accepted a position as Assistant Professor (Research) in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University.
Tyler R. Kartzinel, who earned his Ph.D. under the direction of Dorset Trapnell, has just accepted an offer to join the faculty at Brown University. Tyler will have a split appointment as Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology in EEB and as a Fellow of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.
Congratulations to our first cohort of PBIO 4960 Undergraduate Research Award winners - Jessica Brown, Sara Dorhmi, Han-Tae Kim, Alex Smith, Somer Rowe, Jason Kobylanski, and Rosemary Wills! They presented their research at the Plant Biology Student Symposium last month in our poster session. And an extra congrats to Rosemary Wills and Sara Dorhmi, who took home 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, in the overall undergrad poster competition. Way to go!!
The Plant Biology Student Symposium will be Mon., Aug. 22, 2016 at the Georgia Museum of Art.
One of our grad students, Rishi Masalia, attended and spoke at the August board meeting for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to present his Three Minute Thesis. In addition to the regents, President Morehead was in attendance. Way to go, Rishi!!
Dr. Steve Hubbell, emeritus faculty for UGA Plant Biology and current Distinguished Professor at UCLA, has been awarded the 2016 International Prize for Biology from The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Congratulations Steve!
Graduate student Jess Stephens won the Overall Grand Prize for the Botany Booth in a Box Competition at the Botanical Society of America Conference. Contestants were encouraged to design activities that can be used for STEM outreach events that can be easily stored and shipped to BSA members who want to use them at different types of events. Way to go, Jess!
PBio Herbarium Curator Wendy Zomlefer and Linda Chafin (Conservation Botanist at the State Botanical Garden) recently presented the Regional Botany Special Lecture for the Botanical Society of America conference in Savannah: "Ancient Mountains to Recent Shorelines: Adventures in the Flora of Georgia." The two botanists provided an introduction to the floristics of the state by summarizing some of their favorite habitats and describing some of their favorite native plants.
Somer Rowe, a plant biology undergraduate, is spending part of this summer at Cornell University working with top chemical ecologists, Drs. Andre Kessler and Rob Raguso analyzing her Sarracenia leucophylla volatile samples. This great experience was funded by her PBIO 4960 Undergraduate Research Award. Somer's project, under the advisement of graduate student Jess Stephens, is looking at volatile differences between flowers and traps of S. leucophylla.
PBIO associate professor Kathrin Stanger-Hall was recently featured in an article in the Red & Black and an article in the New York Times for her firefly research. Congrats, Kathrin!
*photo by Shubham Kadam, Red & Black
Fieldwork is fun!
PBIO community ecologist Chris Peterson introduces PBIO fungal cell biologist Michelle Momany to the joys of fieldwork. Along with CSS faculty member Jason Wallace they are collecting soil samples on the site of the new UGA Science Learning Center for a microbiome study.
PBIO professor Chris Peterson and his collaborators Frank Lombardo (U. Illinois) and Chris Godfrey (U. North Carolina Asheville) (shown left to right below) have been awarded a second NOAA grant through the VORTEX-SE program.
PBIO post-doc Karolina Heyduk and graduate student Jess Stephens, along with Brent Faircloth (LSU) and Travis Glenn (UGA), co-authored a recent book chapter, "Targeted DNA Region Re-sequencing" in Field Guidelines for Genetic Experimental Designs in High-Throughput Sequencing. Way to go!!
Wendy Zomlefer, Curator of the University of Georgia Herbarium, received NSF funding for a workshop on "Herbarium Specimen Curation and Best Practices." The workshop was held 19-21 May 2016 in the herbarium and we hosted 26 participants (including an NSF program officer) from 17 institutions in 7 southeastern U.S. states. The main thrust of the workshop was to educate curators about herbarium best practices -- mainly collecting, pressing, and mounting plants and what comes after with digitization efforts.
Kathrin Stanger-Hall's firefly research is "highlighted" in the Spring 2016 UGA Research Magazine.
The Language of Light
John has received a NIH Training Grant through the UGA Genetics department. He will be funded through the training grant fellowship for the 2016-2017 year. Way to go, John!!
Alex was awarded a GRSC 7770 assistantship for fall 2016. This award recognizes his qualifications as an outstanding graduate teaching assistant. With his assistantship, Alex will help the department in planning and teaching a section of GRSC 7770. Way to go, Alex!!
Jess was inducted into the Blue Key Honor Society and is receiving the Rotary Deans' Service Award for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Both honors recognize individuals who have achieved distinction for scholarship and recognition for service and leadership. Way to go, Jess! Keep up the awesome work!
Jess was awarded a Dissertation Completion Award from the UGA Grad School. This award will cover her stipend during the coming year and enable her to focus on completing the writing of an even-more-stupendous dissertation! Great job, Jess!!
Sara Dorhmi is a PBIO undergraduate conducting research in Dr. Chang Hyun Khang’s laboratory. The Khang laboratory focuses on fungal pathogens that threaten world food security.
With the help of the PBIO 4960 Undergraduate Research Award, Sara is researching blast disease caused by the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae that can infect more than 50 different grass species, namely rice. Congratulations, Sara!
Alumnus Chase Mason (PhD, 2015) has accepted an Assistant Professor position at the University of Central Florida. He will be joining the UCF Department of Biology starting Spring 2017. Way to go Chase!!!!
Rosemary Wills is an undergraduate conducting research in Dr. Michelle Momany's laboratory, which focuses on polar growth in the model filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans and the pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. With the PBIO 4960 Undergraduate Research Award, Rosemary is investigating whether pH affects the germination and growth of A. fumigatus under stressful conditions in the human host and environment. Congratulations, Rosemary!
PBIO grad students Dorothy Christopher, Kristen Engle, Michelle Hwang, Katie Putney, Maria Soto, Jess Stephens, and post-doc Karolina Heyduk designed and implemented activities for 70 Girl Scouts at the Botanical Gardens this past weekend. Some activities included computer science, carnivorous plants, flowers, and sustainability/gardening. Girl Scouts from all around Athens-Clarke County attended the event. The event will be featured in the upcoming Graduate Student magazine.
*Photo credit: Nancy Evelyn
Wendy Zomlefer, a member of our faculty and the curator of UGA's Herbarium, was featured in this week's edition of the Columns newspaper for her continuous efforts to build a bridge between academics and service. The article spotlights her outreach work at the State Botanical Gardens last fall, made possible through her Public Service and Outreach Faculty fellowship. Check out the article here: http://columns.uga.edu/news/article/plant-biologist-builds-bridge-betwee...
The Plant Biology Graduate Student Association (PBGSA) sponsored the "Future Plant Scientist" award at the 2016 Georgia Science and Engineering Fair in Athens. Graduate students judged middle and high school student science fair projects from across the state. Adam Brantley, from Oconee County Middle School, was this year's winner for his project, "Which Plants Do Arthropods Prefer, Native or Exotic?" Pictured is graduate student Alex Pilote and Adam Brantley. Congratulations, Adam!
Jessica Brown is an undergraduate conducting research in Dr. Dorset Trapnell’s laboratory, which focuses on how evolutionary factors affect genetic variation in natural plant populations. With the PBIO4960 Undergraduate Research Award, Jessica has gained valuable experience in molecular biology techniques while working with Mimulus ringens and Drakaea orchids. Congratulations, Jessica!
Creative Research Medals are awarded for outstanding research or creative activity within the past five years that focuses on a single theme identified with the University of Georgia.
Somer Rowe is a PBIO undergraduate student conducting research in Dr. Chris Peterson's lab, which focuses on the effects of wind disturbance on the carbon cycle. As a recent awardee of the PBIO 4960 Undergraduate Research Award, Somer analyzes leaf litter composition in varying levels of tornado damage. Congratulations, Somer!
Kristen was awarded a travel award from the Office of the Vice President of Research to attend the Cell Wall Meeting this June in Chania, Crete, Greece. Way to go!!
Kathrin Stanger-Hall, Associate Professor in Plant Biology and Director of the National Academies Southeast Summer Institute, was awarded ORAU* funding for the First Southeastern Scientific Teaching Network Conference, July 20-22, 2016 in Athens, GA. The ORAU Event Sponsorship program is a highly competitive program with University-selected proposals competing for funds. The Southeastern Scientific Teaching Network Conference was awarded the maximum award amount ($4,000) this year in a very strong competition. Way to go!
Chelsea Cunard (advised by Rick Lankau and Shumei Chang) and Alex Harkess (advised by Jim Leebens-Mack) both successfully defended their dissertations this month. Congratulations to both of you!!
Pollen competition in style: Effects of pollen size on siring success in the hermaphroditic common morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea
Britnie McCallum and Shu-Mei Chang
Am. J. Bot. 2016; 103:460-470 doi:10.3732/ajb.1500211
Chera Watts is a UGA academic advisor who has been working with biology students for the past two years. As a new advisor for undergraduate students in the Plant Biology department, Chera is here to help you! Whether you're curious about a new PBIO course or simply trying to graduate on time, Chera is the person to contact.
Her walk-in advising hours are on Mondays from 2:30pm - 4:30pm and Thursdays from 10:00am - 12:00pm in 214 Biological Sciences.
April 15th, 2016 from 9:00am - 5:00pm at DW Brooks Mall (next to Miller Plant Sciences)
Alex's project is titled "The Origins of Reproductive phasiRNAs in the Angiosperms." He will be working with Blake Meyers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The fellowship will fund his research for three years so that he can better understand the origin and diversification of phased, secondary, small interfering RNAs and their precursors during anther development across the angiosperms. This is a very competitive program. Way to go, Alex!!
Congratulations to our very first cohort of PBIO majors receiving "PBIO 4960 Undergraduate Research Awards" Look for their research results at future CURO and Plant Biology Fall Student Symposiums!
Jessica Brown: faculty mentor Dorset Trapnell
Sara Dorhmi: faculty mentor Chang-Hyun Khang
Han-Tae Kim: faculty mentor Wolfgang Lukowitz
Alex Smith: faculty mentor Lisa Donavan
Pamela Somer Rowe: faculty mentor Chris Peterson
Rosemary Wills: faculty mentor Michelle Momany
Stephanie Pearl is a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow placed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as a science communicator on the communications staff. In this role, Stephanie uses a variety of mediums (such as blogs and twitter) to describe the science that NIFA funds. She also draws from her research background to provide input on other agency products, such as budget documents, impact reports, and infographics.
Alumnus Christopher Topp ( 2009, Dawe Lab) now runs a lab at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a not-for-profit plant research institute located in Saint Louis, MO. His work focuses on roots, the "hidden-half" of plants. They use an array of lab and field based phenotyping approaches to measure root growth, architecture, and response to the environment. Ultimately they would like to identify the genetic basis of root traits to help develop more robust and sustainable crop plants in a changing environment. For more information, Chris' lab website is:
Scott Gevaert completed his PhD in Plant Biology at UGA in 2011. Today, he is the Program Coordinator and Lead Instructor for the Life Science Lab Assistant Certificate Program at St. Louis Community College. This program trains students to be entry-level lab technicians in biotechnology, through topics such as centrifugation, DNA extraction, PCR, and spectrophotometry.
Jess Stephens, one of our PBIO grad students, was recently awarded a DDIG grant. Her project is titled "Carnivorous plant syndromes: The role of volatile emissions in the diversification of the pitcher plant genus Sarracenia." The grant is investigating how plant-insect interactions have contributed to carnivorous plant diversification through examining whether trap volatiles additionally support previously identified syndromes, whether volatiles influence prey specialization, and the mechanisms in which carnivorous plants avoid capturing their pollinators. Jess' work will be in collaboration with Drs. Andre Kessler and Robert Raguso at Cornell University. Nice job, Jess!
Lauren Eserman, one of our PBIO grad students, was recently awarded a DDIG grant. Her project is titled "Evolution of polyploidy and storage roots in sweet potato and its wild relatives" and it has three aims: 1) Estimating the evolutionary relationships among sweet potato and its wild relatives, 2) characterizing the diversity in root traits and polyploidy in this group, and 3) testing whether polyploidy played a role in the evolution of storage roots. Way to go, Lauren!
Jeff Cannon (Chris Peterson's lab), Jason Comer (co-advised by Jim Leebens-Mack and Wendy Zomlefer), Hui Guo (not pictured, Andy Paterson's lab), Karolina Heyduk (Jim Leebens-Mack's lab), and Ed McAssey (John Burke's lab) all graduated with their PhDs in Plant Biology in Fall 2015. Congrats!
Richard won all three Franklin College OIT Customer Service Awards for 2015! These awards were for Best Technical Knowledge, Best Courtesy/Friendliness, and Best Timeliness. Yay, Richard!
"Senior Biology major Ben Miller, who conducted research in the Department of Plant Biology as part of the CURO research program, has recently been accepted to the Georgia Regents University Dental College of Georgia. Ben worked in the Donovan lab in the 2014-2015 academic year, studying root system traits in Helianthus (sunflower) with post-doc Alan Bowsher. The project, entitled “Evolutionary divergences in root system morphology, allocation, and nitrogen uptake in species from high- versus low-fertility soils,” was recently published in Functional Plant Biology.
Graduate students are the lifeblood of the Department of Plant Biology Program. Gifts to the Graduate Student Award (7904100) account will create a permanent endowment to support graduate students.
The new Science Learning Center is taking shape. Brigitte Bruns and Lisa Donovan were given a tour of the facility this week. Click here to view the gallery.
Ed, a member of John Burke's lab, successfully defended his dissertation on genetic diversity across the range of wild sunflower (Helianthus anuus). Congrats!
Jessica Brown, a UGA Plant Biology major, has been awarded the very first “Plant Biology Undergraduate Research Support Award." She will be working with Dr. Dorset Trapnell on "Phylogeny of Epidendron magnoliae, a North American epiphytic orchid."
Check out this cool piece on polyextremophile Deinococcus radiodurans, aka Conan the Bacterium, from Rosemary Wills, freshman UGA PBIO major and Momany lab member.
Jason, co-advised by Jim Leebens-Mack and Wendy Zomlefer, successfully defended his dissertation on the systematics of palms with a focus on the Arecoideae. Congrats!
The University of Georgia invites applications at the Assistant/Associate Professor level for a tenure‐track faculty position addressing the big data/data science challenges posed by Computational Plant Biology starting August 2016. We welcome applications from candidates who address fundamental computational, technical, and biological challenges in plant biology using appropriate study systems including forest trees and/or their interacting organisms. The candidate should have a Ph.D.
Kudos to Alumnus Yainitza Hernandez!
The LISELL-B Project coordinated by PBIO alumna Yainitza Hernandez (PhD, 2011) recognized as “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education” by White House.
They are once again the only UGA researchers on the IS highly cited list !!!
Dr. Chris Peterson was recently awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with co-PIs Dr. Frank Lombardo of the University of Illinois and Dr. Chris Godfrey of the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Lombardo is a structural engineer, Godfrey is a meteorologist and Peterson specializes in forest wind disturbance and regeneration; they will combine their three areas of expertise to study the spatial distribution of debris from buildings and trees after tornado damage occurs to retrospectively infer characteristics of the tornado.
The Plant Biology Student Symposium will be held Monday, August 24th from 9AM to 4PM. Alumnus Virginia Jin, Randy Mejeur and Michael Purugganan will be our featured speakers. Click on link to view schedule. /sites/default/files/2015_symp_schedule_0.pdf
The Genetics Society of America (GSA) is writing to encourage you to support a grassroots campaign to nominate pioneering geneticist Barbara McClintock to be the new face of the $10 bill.
In response to an announcement from Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew that the new $10 bill would “feature a notable woman,” a group of graduate students at the University of California, Davis, launched the Barbara on the Bill campaign. And earlier this week, GSA’s Executive Committee agreed to endorse the students’ effort.
Here’s what you can do to help:
UGA PBIO has contributed two new "guest" editors (1 year first term) to the prestigious journal, Plant Cell: Drs. Jim Leebens-Mack and Xiaoyu Zhang
Congratulations Caroline Coatney and Alex Matte-Santos, Plant Biology's newest masters' degree graduates. Congratulations to Nate Ellis and Li Wang, Plant Biology's newest Ph.D. graduates.
Hiral Patel, shown here taking measurements in the greenhouse, did her UGA honors thesis under the mentorship of graduate student Chase Mason in the Department of Plant Biology. Hiral has been accepted into the Medical College of Georgia for fall 2015. Chase, now Dr. Mason, is a Katharine H. Putnam Postdoctoral Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. Wohooo!
Congrats to Li Wang for successfully defending her dissertation under the direction of Dr. Xiaoyu Zhang in the Department of Plant Biology: " Dynamic Histone Replacement and Pol II Redistribution during Heat-induced Transcriptional Activation”
Russell Malmberg is a co-PI on a grant just awarded from NIH/NIGMS Mathematical Biology to develop bioinformatic tools to predict the 3D structure of RNAs from primary sequences. Liming Cai of Computer Science is the lead P.I., and Cory Momany of Pharmacy is also a co-PI on the same grant. Figure - green is the actual RNA structure, blue is the prediction by the method proposed for the grant.
Lucy Devaney, a high school student from Athens Academy, joined the research team in the Donovan lab as a UGA "Young Dawgs" intern this summer.
Check out new paper by Jason Comer, Wendy Zomlefer, Craig Barrett, Jerrold Davis, Dennis Wm. Stevenson, Karolina Heyduk & Jim Leebens-Mack
American Journal of Botany highlight: http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/doi/10.3732/ajb.1026hlights
Check out new paper by Jess Stephens, Will Rogers, Chase Mason, Lisa Donovan and Russell Malmberg!
American Journal of Botany highlight: http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/doi/10.3732/ajb.1026hlights
Plant Biology graduate student Kristen Engle (on right) received the Martin Keller Award for Excellence for the 2015 BioEnergy Science Center Retreat! She is pictured here with her advisor Professor Deb Mohnen (on left).
Plant Biology loves its graduate students' dedication to their teaching responsibilities! Students in the department go above and beyond to show their dedication to teaching. This semester, recent grad Alan Bowsher was awarded the UGA Graduate School Interdisciplinary Certificate in University Teaching, and Caitlin Ishibashi, Jeff Cannon, Uma Nagendra, Ed McAssey, and Chase Mason all received UGA Graduate School Teaching Portfolio Certificates!
Congrats to Plant Biology graduate student Chelsea Cunard for being awarded the Best Talk at a joint conference between the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council and North Carolina Invasive Plant Council, held at the UNC Chapel Hill Botanical Gardens!
This year, the Plant Biology Graduate Student Association (PBGSA) sponsored the "Future Plant Scientist" award at the 2015 Georgia Science and Engineering Fair here in Athens. Graduate students spent half a day meeting with middle and high school students from across the state to discuss and judge their projects and encourage their continued participation in science. The students ultimately chose to award Maggie Clutter from Oconee County Middle School their prize for her project on the American chestnut.
Dr. Wendy Zomlefer has been awarded a UGA Public Service and Outreach Fellowship for fall 2015. Wendy is Curator of UGA’s Herbarium and has been actively involved with outreach activities across the state. This fellowship will provide an opportunity for Wendy to refocus her educational outreach activities on the State Botanical Garden, thereby building a bridge between these two facilities that are naturally aligned through their educational missions of promoting plants and plant collections.
Kierson Jones graduated with a BS in Plant Biology in December 2014. He is currently working as a technician on multiple projects in Dr. Khang's lab. He is studying rice blast (Magnaporthe oryzae), a destructive fungal pathogen of rice. His research involves early post-penetration fungal morphology and development, extra-invasive hyphal membrane (EIHM) dynamics, and comparative transcriptome analysis in rice roots.
Since June 2014, PBIO undergrad Emma Shipman has worked in the Khang lab studying early infection morphogenesis of the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae. With other lab members, she co-authored a poster and paper (in review) on dynamics of effector-secreting cell establishment by M. oryzae. She is starting graduate school in September at the University of California at Davis's Plant Biology Graduate Group.
What do PBIO grad students do on Spring Break? They host a regional conference! Uma Nagendra and Jeffery Cannon led a group of graduate students to host the Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference (SEEC) at UGA this past March. The conference brought 225 early career researchers from over 40 institutions to UGA for presentations and posters, as well as a plenary, career panel, field trip, and trivia. Attendees practiced effective science communication with new "rapid research talks" and a lunchtime workshop.
What will you be doing on May 18th - Fascination of Plants Day?
Fascination of Plants Day is an internationally coordinated activity started by the European Plant Science Organization aimed at heightening awareness and cultivate fascination for plants. (http://www.plantday.org)
We are excited to announce the promotions of Stephanie Chirello to Administrative Specialist II and Gretchen Bowen to Sr. Accountant. Also, please welcome our newest staff member, Chelsea Harvey, Administrative Associate I.
Congratulations to Eric Goolsby, an Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program student in the Donovan lab, for his NSF DDIG grant: "Evolution of hyperaccumulation in wild Helianthus: a phylogenetically explicit assessment of evolutionary history and adaptive hypotheses"
Congratulations to Sabrina Sewell (M.S., 2013) and Wendy Zomlefer (her advisor). They received the Windler Award at the 76th Annual meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists in Chattanooga, TN. The award is presented annually to the author(s) of the best systematic botany paper published in Castanea the previous year. Sabrina's paper was based on the second chapter of her thesis, a study of vegetation of the unusual Piedmont Gabbro Upland Depression Forests in Jasper County, GA. She received a $500.00 check from the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.
Jess Stephens and co-authors publish Saracennia Phylogeny!
Stephens, Jess, Will Rogers, Karolina Heyduk, Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, Ron Determann, Travis Glenn, Russell Malmberg. 2015. Ressolving phylogenetic relationships of the recently radiated plant genus Sarracenia using target enrichment. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 85: 76-87
Plant Biology graduate student Alex Harkess is definitely on a roll!
1) Awarded an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant!
2) Paper published in New Phytologist http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nph.13389/abstract !
3) Finalist in the UGA 3-minute dissertation competition to be held Wed April 8!
Keep it up!
Congratulations to Chase Mason on a successful PhD dissertation defense! Join us for his departmental exit seminar April 6.
PBIO professor Michelle Momany was scientific co-chair for the 28th Fungal Genetics Conference at Asilomar, the largest international meeting in the field. The UGA fungal group was well-represented with Chang Hyun Khang’s lab and Zack Lewis’ lab also attending (http://fungi.uga.edu/).
Congratulations to Alan Bowsher on a successful PhD dissertation defense!
"The Dogwood Genome Project: A Model for Woody Ornamental Genomics" has been funded for ~1.5 million by the NSF Plant Genome Research Program. The project is led by Jim Leebens-Mack with co-PIs CK Tsai, Phillip Wadl, Magdy Alabady, and JennyQiuyun Xiang. Congratulations!
Wendy Zomlefer, curator of UGA Plant Biology Herbarium, just received an NSF Workshop grant. In the coming year, she will host representatives of at least 10 herbaria from Georgia and the Southeast for a two-day program on best herbarium practices.
Congratulations to Jim Leebens-Mack. He has been approved for promotion to Full Professor. No wonder he is smiling!
Thursday, February 12, 2015 we celebrated Jim's retirement with a dinner at Trump's. The Department gave him a photograph of the region of Costa Rica in which he conducts his research.
Congratulations to Rishi Masalia for successfully passing his oral qualifying exam. He has now been admitted to Ph.D. candidacy in Plant Biology!
Congratulations to Ilkay Dorter for successfully passing his oral qualifying exam. He has now been admitted to Ph.D. candidacy in Plant Biology!
As part of the outreach component of her current NSF Collections in Service of Biological Collections (CSBR) grant, Wendy Zomlefer is giving a herbarium basics workshop for Trees Atlanta, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting tree-planting in Atlanta and the Beltway Arboretum. The workshop will be held on Saturday, Feb. 21. See
Congratulations to Tiantian Zhang for a successful defense of her PhD dissertation! She is completing her degree under the direction of Professor Michael Hahn.
Congratulations to Yiwen Yang for a successful defense of her PhD dissertation! She is completing her degree under the direction of Professor Michael Hahn.
Running out of water: UGA researchers look to Mother Nature for help:
Russell Malmberg, Professor of Plant Biology and member of The Plant Center at UGA, was honored during UGA vs. Georgia Tech. football game for being awarded a University Professorship... looking good on the Sanford Stadium jumbotron!
Kelly Dawe and Magdy Alabady received a grant to study maize Abnormal chromosome 10 (Ab10), which skews chromosome segregation through a mysterious mechanism that involves the formation of ³neocentromeres² that move independently during meiosis. They hypothesize that a novel C-terminal kinesin gene located on Ab10 controls this behavior. The goal of this work is to fully characterize the kinesin and to initiate a larger study to identify other factors involved.
Alex Harkess, Michael McKain, and advisor Jim Leebens-Mack co-authored a recently accepted paper in Molecular Biology and Evolution: “Multiple Polyploidy Events in the Early Radiation of Nodulating and Nonnodulating Legumes”. This paper utilizes leaf transcriptomes in a phylogenetic context to identify whole genome duplications across the legumes and how they might influence the repeated evolution of nodulation.
Kudos to Dr. Wendy Zomlefer, curator of UGA Plant Biology Herbarium. She received funding from NSF to digitize data on southeastern plants. This will assist researchers studying climate change, species endangerment and conservation.
Nov 2014:Congratulations to PBIO Graduate Student Uma Nagendra (Peterson lab) for winning first prize in the Dance-Your-PhD contest.
Nov 2014: Kudos to Dorset Trapnell (UGA Plant Biology)! She received funding from the Australian Orchid Foundation to study several species in the sexually deceptive orchid genus Drakaea (Hammer Orchids) in southwestern Australia.
Oct 2014: Jim Leebens-Mack (UGA Plant Biology) is part of an international team with a high profile paper in PNAS revealing important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on Earth. Check it out!
COME JOIN US IN ATHENS! UGA Plant Biology is currently participating in 2 faculty searches: 1) Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics-Biological Data Science (application review begins Dec 1st), 2) Endowed Professorship in Innovative Science Education (application review begins Nov 14th).
Check out the job ads at https://www.franklin.uga.edu/jobs/index.php?unit=5
Kudos to the following graduate students for submitting NSF Dissertation Improvement Grants: Chelsea Cunard (advisor Rick Lankau), Eric Goolsby (advisor Lisa Donovan), Alex Harkess (advisor Jim Leebens-Mack), Caitlin Ishibashi (advisor John Burke), and Katie Putney (advisor Shumei Chang)!
Many thanks to Cynthia Baker in UGA Sponsored Programs for guiding this new generation of scientists through the proposal submission process.
Gina Baucom (U Michigan, former UGA Genetics student and postdoc) and Shumei Chang (UGA Plant Biology) have been funded by USDA to study the genetic and ecological mechanisms underlying the evolution of herbicide resistance in the common morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea.
Magdy Alabady (UGA Plant Biology) has been funded by USDA to identify genetic effectors and modulators of stress tolerance that act downstream of Salicylic Acid and other oxidative stimuli in Popular, in a collaboration with C.J. Tsai , Scott Harding, and LiangJiao Xue (UGA Genetics).
The 1.5 million dollar award focuses on evolutionary innovations in photosynthetic physiology of plants living in water-limited habits
Congratulations to our faculty member Zheng-Hua Ye and research associate Ruiqin Zhong! They are the only UGA researchers on the list of 2014 Highly Cited Researchers!
Chase Mason received the Wilbur Duncan Award from grad coordinator Chris Peterson. Congratulations Chase!
Faculty vs Grad Students in a series of three minute talks to see who can best explain their science to a nonspecialist audience.
Watch the whole thing here.
The Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory that Regents Professor Andrew Paterson directs addresses dimensions of plant biology relevant toward a more bio-based economy, balancing increased food security with expanded bioenergy supplies while mitigating the challenges of a looming worldwide water crisis.
Read the full article on the UGA website at http://www.uga.edu/faculty/profile/andrew-paterson/
Daniel Wubah, a former graduate student in our department, is now the provost at Washington & Lee. Daniel completed his degree in mycology with emeritus professor Mel Fuller. Our congratulations to Daniel!
Read the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/article/New-Provost-Looks-to-Lessons/140587/
Kudos to Burke lab post-doc Jennifer Mandel! The work she did as a graduate student is having an impact on the management and protection of an endangered species of sunflower. Jennifer stated, "the US Fish and Wildlife Service is about to list the species and much of their data presented for listing the species is the work I did as a graduate student (i.e., they cite our publications on the taxon)".
Dr. John Burke is in the local news discussing research on heirloom crop varieties and meeting global food demands.
Read the full article at: http://classiccitytoday.com/2013/07/researchers-say-heirloom-crop-variet...
Our own amazing graduate student Chase Mason is featured on the UGA homepage. Congratulations Chase!
See the full article at: http://www.uga.edu/amazing/profile/mason-chase/
Dr. John Burke has been awarded the 2013 Creative Research Medal, which is awarded annually for faculty doing outstanding research or creative activity focusing on a single theme identified with University of Georgia.
For the full article go to: http://columns.uga.edu/news/article/2013-creative-research-medals/
Dr. Peggy Brickman is one of two faculty at UGA being named in 2013 as Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professors, the University's highest recognition for superioir instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels!
See the full article at: http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/meigs-professors-news-release-2013/
Recently Congressman Paul Broun said, "all that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell."
His statement generated a response from 10 department heads reassurin...g Congressman Broun and Georgia taxpayers that we develop our course material from the scientific literature rather than "the pit of Hell" he claims.
Stephanie Pearl is our recipient of the 2012 Wilbur Duncan Award for Outstanding Plant Biology Graduate Student. Congratulations Stephanie!
A new University of Georgia study shows that some native clearweed plants have evolved resistance to invasive garlic mustard plants—and that the invasive plants appear to be waging a counterattack. The study, published in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is thought to provide the first evidence of coevolution between native and invasive plant species.
John Burke's lab is getting GREAT press coverage (Nature online news, History.com, Scientific American, Wired, Yahoo! News, MSNBC.com, USAToday.com and more) of a paper that just came out of his lab this week - the gene behind van Gogh's double-flowered sunflowers.
Here's the link to the paper http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1002628
Kudos to Dr. Shu-Mei Chang. She is being awarded the Sandy Beaver Excellence in Teaching Award from Franklin College this year! Way to go!