PMB News Center

How Sunflowers Follow the Sun

A field of sunflowers in Yolo County, California. (Photo by Chris Nicolini, UC Davis)

Benjamin Blackman follows the growth of sunflowers

By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley

Sunflowers not only pivot to face the sun as it moves across the sky during the day, but they also rotate 180 degrees during the night to greet the morning sun.

UC Davis and UC Berkeley researchers have now discovered how they do it: They’ve linked their internal clock genes to stem growth, so that the eastern side of the stem elongates more than the western side during the day, turning the stem and flower westward to track the transiting sun....

New Director of Energy Biosciences Institute

Professor John D. Coates to lead public/private consortium

John D. Coates, professor of microbiology in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, has been named the new director of the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at UC Berkeley.

The EBI, one of the largest public-private partnerships in the world, was created to apply advanced biological knowledge to the area of bioenergy development.

Coates succeeds Professor Chris Somerville, former director of the EBI.

Coates said his goals for the organization, which is a part of the UC Berkeley campus and managed...

Fungus Among Us

Cal hosts Mycological Society of America meeting

By Cat Adams, Plant & Microbial Biology

For the first time since the Mycological Society of America (MSA) was molded in 1931, the annual conference will take place at UC Berkeley's beautiful Clark-Kerr campus.

More than 350 fungal specialists from around the world will gather to share their research, network and germinate new ideas at the meeting organized by Professors John Taylor and Tom Bruns of Plant & Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, in collaboration with Professor Anne Pringle of the University of Wisconsin,...

Arnon and Kase Fellowships 2016-2017

Awarded to outstanding graduate students in the department

The Arnon and Kase Graduate Student Fellowships Committee recently selected two graduate student applicants to receive the prestigious Arnon and Kase Fellowships for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Grady Pierroz, a joint student in the Coleman-Derr / Lemaux Labs, and Thai Dao, a student in the Fletcher Lab, will each receive a stipend and payment of university fees in support of their graduate education.

The Arnon Fellowship was established to support PMB graduate students pursuing research in plant biology. It is bestowed annually in the...

Glass Joins Leadership at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Division Director for Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology

Professor N. Louise Glass, former chair of Plant & Microbial Biology, has accepted the position of Director of the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL).

She will continue as a professor at UC Berkeley while she leads the division, beginning in July, 2016. Glass will take over from Trent Northen, who served as the Interim Division Director for EGSB since the Biosciences reorganization at the LBNL was launched last year.

Glass is an international leader in fungal...

College Campuses Take on Food Waste

Students across the UC system coming together to combat food waste

If you piled up all the perfectly edible food that Americans throw away each day, it would fill the Rose Bowl, twice. Put another way, about 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten – Americans toss out $165 billion worth of food each year.

“It’s a really huge number,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Becky Mackelprang. “Reducing that number could make a very big impact on society.”

At college campuses around the country, students like Mackelprang are at the...

Kris Niyogi Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Kris Niyogi (Photo by Kris Dadacay)

One of the highest honors a scientist can achieve

Kris Niyogi, professor and chair of Plant & Microbial Biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a scientist can achieve.

Niyogi joins five other superstars from UC Berkeley who were also elected May 3, 2016. They include Ian Agol, professor of mathematics; Steven N. Evans, professor of statistics and mathematics; Robert M. Glaeser, emeritus professor; Susan Marqusee, director of QB3; and Peidong Yang, professor of chemistry.

Niyogi studies photosynthetic energy conversion and its regulation in algae...

Department Citation to Outstanding Students

Sather Gate

$500 award each to Noah Gardner and Manraj Sekhon

Manraj Sekhon, a microbial biology undergraduate student, enjoys working in a research lab because it enables him to explore science in a way that "reinforces and enriches the concepts learned in the classroom."

Along with Noah Gardner, Sekhon was awarded the Plant & Microbial Biology Citation in recognition of their outstanding academic work at UC Berkeley. Both students will receive $500 each.

Every year, PMB awards the major citation to the top graduating undergraduate student in Genetics and Plant Biology major and the top...

The Secret Language of Microbes

The fungus Neurospora colonizing a burnt tree in the Lake Tahoo region after a fire (Photo by John Taylor)

N. Louise Glass discovers different dialects

By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley

Fungi communicate by chemical signals only, but they, like humans, appear to use different dialects.

This discovery came from a UC Berkeley study of the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, a red bread mold that has been studied in the laboratory for nearly 100 years.

Many fungi, including N. crassa, grow as filaments or hyphae that often fuse to form an interconnected network. Hyphal networks have been shown to be important to many fungi, including the mycorrhizal fungi that form associations...

Matt Traxler, 2016 Searle Scholar

Investigating the role of specialized metabolites in mediating bacterial interactions

Matt Traxler, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, has been named a 2016 Searle Scholar. The Searle Scholars Program supports the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry.

Traxler will receive $300,000 in flexible funding over the next three years to fund his research investigating the role of specialized metabolites in mediating bacterial interactions. Specialized metabolites include antibiotics, antifungals, and anti-cancer agents. The Traxler lab aims to use knowledge about how these metabolites function...

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