Plant Systems: Cell Biology and Genomics
Why study plants?
Plant biology research is entering an exciting new era at the frontier of scientific discovery, contributing significantly to solving major societal and environmental challenges and receiving substantial funding from the government and private investment.
Plants have long provided oxygen, food, fiber, fuel, minerals, and medicines for human and animals. Basic plant research is increasingly essential for generating knowledge that will improve the environment, provide renewable energy, sustain our food supply, and produce new medicines.
In September 2009, the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) released a widely-anticipated report "A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution" presented to Congress and the President. This report identifies four major societal challenges: food, energy, environment, and health. Plant research in "plant development, growth and productivity, plant tolerance of extreme condition, and plant adaptation to climate change" is critical in addressing these grand challenges.
Plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa (rice), populus, Fragaria vesca (diploid strawberry), Physcomitrella patens (moss) have become excellent and diverse model systems for addressing fundamental questions on plant growth, development, signaling, defense,and evolution.
News & Events
- Charles Hawkins (CBMG, Liu Lab) and Jenny Shemansky (CBMG, Chang Lab) defended their dissertations during spring 2016. Congrats Dr. Hawkins and Dr. Shemansky!
- Rachel Shahan (MOCB, Liu Lab) was awarded the prestigious NIFA Graduate Fellowship. Congrats Rachel!
- John Clay (MOCB, Chang Lab) was awarded the Carroll E. Cox Award for the Outstanding Graduate Student in Plant Biology. Yay John!
Bram Van de Poel, Endymion D. Cooper, Dominique Van Der Straeten, Caren Chang, and Charles F. Delwiche
Transcriptome Profiling of the Green Alga Spirogyra pratensis (Charophyta) Suggests an Ancestral Role for Ethylene in Cell Wall Metabolism, Photosynthesis, and Abiotic Stress Responses
Plant Physiology 2016 172: 533-545.
Ju C, Van de Poel B, Cooper ED, Thierer JH, Gibbons TR, Delwiche CF, Chang C. Conservation of ethylene as a plant hormone over 450 million years of evolution. Nature Plants. 2015 Jan 08; 1(1):14004
Charles Hawkins, Julie Caruana, Erin Schiksnis, and Zhongchi Liu (2016) Genome-scale DNA variant analysis identifies a SNP that underlies the yellow fruit color in wild strawberry. Scientific Report Jul 5;6:29017. doi: 10.1038/srep29017
Why study plants at the University of Maryland?
Graduate education in plant biology at Maryland offers several unique advantages.
- We have a prominent group of about 22 core faculty are addressing fundamental questions and practical problems in both model systems and plants of economic importance (See faculty research page). Organisms range from single-celled algae to moss and to flowering plants. Our research utilizes state-of-the-art-technologies and approaches ranging from microscopy and genetics to the next-generation sequencing, synthetic biology, and bioinformatics. Students will have ample opportunities to rotate, experience, and select the right lab and your favorite plant model for your PhD thesis research.
- The plant biology faculty and students are highly interactive and supportive, in order to stay at the forefront of research developments. We have monthly meetings such as Atrium and GEMS, annual meetings such as the “Plant Biology Mini-Symposium”, weekly plant biology journal club , and parties such as annual Lunar New Year's party.
- We are located in the suburbs of Washington D.C., with easy access to the USDA Beltsville research labs, Smithsonian Institute,NIH , J. Craig Venter Institute , National Arboretum , Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) and ample opportunity for collaborations.
Faculty Research Areas
Plant faculty members study a wide range of research topics ranging from basic fundamental research to agriculture and biotechnologies. These topics include:
- Hormone signal transduction (Chang, Liu, Murphy)
- Growth and development (Chang, Cooke, Liu, Wolniak, Feijo, Murphy)
- Plant defense and host-pathogen interactions (Culver, Hutcheson, Simon, Straney, Xiao)
- Evolution (Cooke, Delwiche, Liu)
- RNA splicing and genomics (Delwiche, Mount, Liu)
- Epigenetic regulation (Coleman, Liu, Zhu, Feijo)
- Biofuel (Hutcheson)
- Metabolomics (Sriram),
Many faculty members are well funded by government agencies including USDA, NSF, NIH, DOE, National Security Agency. (For a list of all participating faculty, click here.)