Graduates Vikas Bhardwaj, Kavita Solanki and Zachary Duray on the completion of their science + business MS degree in the Plant Biotechnology Professional Science Master's program.
Faculty member James O'Dwyer on winning a Simons Foundation Investigator Award in Mathematical Modeling of Living Systems. The award "provides a stable base of support for outstanding scientists, enabling them to undertake long-term study of fundamental questions".
Graduate student Noel Piatek on completion of her Master's Degree under Steve Long.
Graduate student Vince Hustad on his Ph.D.and successful defense of his thesis entitled "A Circumscription of the Earth Tongue Fungi Class Geoglossomycetes" under Andrew Miller.
Graduate student Robert Koester on his Ph.D.and successful defense of his thesis entitled "Physiological mechanisms of yield improvement in historical soybean germplasm" under Lisa Ainsworth.
A WARM WELCOME to Cailiang Zheng, Zhaodi Liao, Yinghui Xin, Naixin Chen and Runzhi Zhou (l-r) from Fujian Agriculture & Forestry University (FAFU), Fuzhou, China. All are juniors or seniors in plant science, participating in a new undergraduate study abroad program between the Plant Biology Department and FAFU. They will spend two semesters at Illinois in advanced coursework and research in Plant Biology laboratories. During Spring 2016 semester, they will be working in the Heath, Dalling, Ming, Schuler and Huber labs, respectively.
MAJOR MICROFUNGAL DIVERSITY INITIATIVE. When we think of fungi, most of us imagine mushrooms. But beyond the limits of our naked eyes, thousands of species of so-called Microfungi toil away. While not as visually charismatic as their capped and tasty cousins, this diverse and largely undocumented group has major economic and ecological impacts throughout the biosphere as pathogens and saprobes. Their fundamental role in our planet's ecology warrants more systematic documentation of their diversity and Plant Biology Affiliate Andrew Miller (INHS) is leading a massive NSF-funded effort to consolidate microfungal collections into a single, universally accessible database. The project is part of NSF's iDigBio resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC).
BUT CAN YOU DANCE TO IT? Scientists eschew bias in interpreting experimental outcomes by imploring each other and their students to "let the data speak for themselves". But how about letting the data sing for themselves? That's just what Ort lab postdoc Berkley Walker and his music composition collaborators rounded up Illinois Plant Biology colleagues to do. The result: The Sounds Of Science, A Concert Exploring the Connections between Plant Science and New Music. Biological data are anything but random; they have themes, periodicity, repeating motifs, even rhythm. Sounds a lot like a description of music. So grab your partner and boogie (or meditate?) to the tunes here.
OZONE: INVISIBLE ENEMY OF AGRICULTURE. Since when is ozone an "enemy"? Aren’t we concerned about a “hole in the ozone layer”? Don’t we need ozone? Well, yes and no. An NSF-sponsored project led by Plant Biology faculty Lisa Ainsworth and Andrew Leakey seeks to genetically prepare the nation’s corn crop for rising ozone levels here on the ground. Read more here.
BUMPER CROP OF NEW COLLEAGUES. Illinois Plant Biology has had the exceptionally good fortune to grow by four new faculty members over the past several months. We are delighted to welcome Drs. Wendy Yang,
Jessica Conroy and
Wendy's specialty is terrestrial biogeochemistry. Her research focuses on mineral -- mainly nitrogen-- cycling in a changing climate, using tracers and stable isotopes.
James is a theoretician fascinated by parallel patterns emerging from diverse
ecological contexts. He has worked with microbial communities, population dynamics, biodiversity modeling and community structure.
Jessica uses past climate data gleaned from geographically diverse lake sediments to understand and predict future climate scenarios. Her research has taken her from the Galápagos to the Tibetan plateau.
Amy, our department's newest addition, is a systems biologist. She uses genomics, metabolomics and epigenomics to investigate interactions between primary and secondary metabolism.