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Home Faculty Graduate Undergraduate Research Area Plant Biology

Plant biology is the study of how plants, ranging from single-celled algae to huge trees, grow, develop, respond to environmental signals, defend against pathogens, reproduce, and evolve. Life on earth, as we know it, would not exist without plants. Plants supply oxygen in the atmosphere, food, fiber, minerals and medicines. Yet the mechanisms by which plants develop, survive and complete their life cycle are poorly understood. To discover the mysteries of plant life, students have an opportunity to use diverse approaches, including cell and molecular biology, molecular genetics and genomics, biochemistry and physiology, and bioinformatics and computational biology.

Many faculty members are using the plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana (ATRIUM) to investigate hormonal and environmental signal transduction (Chang & Kwak), flower development (Liu), host-pathogen interactions, RNA splicing (Mount) and membrane transport (Sze). Plant pathogens studied include viruses (Culver, Simon), bacteria (Hutcheson), and fungi (Bean, Straney). Contemporary approaches in cell & molecular biology are being used to study photosynthesis and pigment synthesis in algae and higher plants (Gantt), cell division and sperm development in ferns (Wolniak), and transport processes in plant reproduction (Sze). Several laboratories are studying the mechanism of development (Cooke), including ethylene signal transduction (Chang), and molecular genetics of flower development (Liu). Finally, both molecular and morphological techniques are being utilized to address significant evolutionary questions in bacteria, green algae, and other protists (Delwiche) and land plants (Cooke). (All students interested in plant ecology are encouraged to examine the graduate program in the Department of Biology)

The Graduate Program is being revised to provide training that will meet the future needs of the global society. The goal is to produce competitive and independent scientists who will contribute to higher education, research, and leadership in the public or the private sector. Graduates of CMBG department have found opportunities in the Washington DC metropolitan area, in other states and in countries around the world.


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