PMB News Center

New research identifies plant “sunscreen” protein

For plants, light is great, until it’s not. They need the sun’s energy to carry out photosynthesis, but too much light damages the chloroplasts in plant cells where light, water, and carbon dioxide are converted into sugar and oxygen. One way plants protect themselves is to dissipate that excess light, a process that also occurs in the chloroplasts.

Krishna Niyogi and researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are working to understand–and manipulate–plant photoprotection mechanisms, such as a process called NPQ, or nonphotochemical quenching, which...

Microorganism in East Bay sludge reveals new CO2 fixation pathway

Israel Figueroa

Scientists from the Department of Plant and Microbiology (PMB) have identified the first natural example of a pathway for carbon dioxide fixation previously thought to be only synthetically derived. This discovery has the potential to lead to applications in developing new methods for carbon capture and conversion for the sustainable storing of electrical energy in liquid fuel form.

Matthew Traxler named 2017 Hellman Fellow

Headshot of Matt F. Traxler

Matthew Traxler has been named a 2017 Hellman Fellow. The Hellman Fellows Program supports junior faculty research on the ten campuses of the UC system and at four private institutions. Three other CNR faculty members have also been awarded 2017 Hellman Fellowships.

Established by Warren & Chris Hellman and their children in 1994, the purpose of the Hellman Fellows Program is to support the research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their chosen fields of endeavor. The...

NSF funds $3.4 million grant to improve maize crops

field of maize

Researchers from the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have been awarded a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the productivity of maize. Sarah Hake , director of the USDA Plan Gene Expression Center and an adjunct professor in PMB, will work with a team of Danforth Center and university researchers on the project.

The team’s research will develop novel methods...

Alumni Making Headlines!

Three Cal Scientists Shift Focus from Biofuels to Prebiotics; b y Glen Martin

These days, it’s all about the gut. Not how it looks in a Speedo or bikini, though. More like, how it feels inside. Increasingly, gut health is correlated with general health; gastrointestinal status is widely thought to affect everything from the immune system to emotional stability .

So what does a healthy gut want? Probiotics, apparently – the “good” bacteria that flourish in the human intestinal tract and allegedly promote smooth digestion, conquer pathogens and stimulate...

Virginia Tartaglio Named ASPB Conviro Scholar

This award program is open to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students studying plant biology

Virginia Tartaglio, a graduate student in Dr. John Vogel's laboratory, is one of twenty-one students to be selected for the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Conviron Scholars program. This program delivers an experience intended to serve as foundation for a career in plant science. In addition to the one-year membership, ASPB offers " opportunities for exposure to plant biologists who have taken different career tracks, including university research, industry, conservation and plant protection, agronomy, publications, policy, education, and outreach,...

Researchers identify gene that made corn edible

Close up of corn and teointe plants

Berkeley researchers have identified the gene that made corn edible through domestication from its inedible wild ancestor, a plant called teosinte. The results of their research are published in PNAS .

George Chuck , an associate researcher in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology and the study’s senior author, discovered that the gene tassels replace upper ears1 ( tru1 ) played a critical role in domesticating corn into an edible crop plant. This gene changes the inflorescence—the flower head of a plant that includes stems,...

Reinvestment in research supports potential for increased crop yields

Photo by Jim Block

Author: Julie Gipple

A University of Illinois research project on which UC Berkeley Professor Krishna Niyogi has been a longtime collaborator announced today that it has received a $45 million, five-year reinvestment to continue research on photosynthetic improvements that could increase yields for farmers worldwide.

The funding for the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) research project—which has already demonstrated yield increases of 20 percent—comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research , and the U.K....

Scientists-in-training learn to tell a CLEAR story

Students Tim Jeffers and Tuesday Simmons are ready to answer the public’s science questions at the downtown Berkeley farmers market.

Author: Mackenzie Smith

On the second Saturday of every month, Tuesday Simmons heads to the downtown Berkeley farmers market. Among the produce stalls and coffee stands, she sits behind a table with a sign that reads “Talk to a scientist!” She and other students spend the day fielding questions from strangers about topics that range from genetically modified foods to climate change and more.

“We never know who we'll talk to at our public events, or what kinds of questions we'll be asked,” said Simmons, a graduate student in the UC Berkeley Department of...

Wildermuth Recognized for Spearheading Berkeley's 'Be A Scientist' Program

"Be A Scientist" program inspires future scientists across the Berkeley school district

Several years ago, Mary Wildermuth had the idea to infuse more of the excitement and reality of science into local schools' curriculums. Now, with a grant from the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, Wildermuth's ideas are now reality. The Be A Scientist program is now active in all the district's seventh grades. Over the last three years, more than 300 research scientists from UC Berkeley have gone into middle school classrooms to mentor students in science. With funding from the Public Schools Fund, the...