PMB News Center

Mentoring Opportunity for Cal Undergrads

undergrad in the lab

Apply now for summer research

This summer the UC Berkeley Graduate Division will again be supporting exceptional undergraduates interested in summer research via the Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) Fellowship. The Smart Program enables doctoral students to create mentored research opportunities for undergraduate students at UC Berkeley. The program provides summer funding for both graduate and undergraduate participants and opportunities to share research results on campus and at national conferences. The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology is pleased to announce that two of its graduate students will be serving as mentors in the...

Glaunsinger Lab Investigates Cell Early Warning System

Sine Figure

What is the role of “jumping genes”?

By Karyn Houston Plant & Microbial Biology

Less than 2% of our genome is made up of sequences that produce proteins important for cell function, so what is the role of the remaining 98%? Nearly half of the mammalian genome is composed of transposable elements, also known as “jumping genes” that can copy themselves and move around the genome, in a potentially damaging manner for the cell. For this reason, our cells have found ways to keep these seemingly parasitic sequences turned off—at least most of the...

John D. Coates' Solution to Provide Oxygen on Mars

coates in lab

NASA goal to send humans to the red planet

By Kevin Schultz Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle

Having discovered flowing, liquid water on the once-imagined arid surface of Mars, NASA scientists are looking to the next missing element needed for human habitability on the Red Planet: oxygen.

Finding a way to produce oxygen on the planet is vital if the space agency is to fulfill its goal of sending humans to Mars sometime during the 2030s, they say.

Read the article at the San Francisco Chronicle: ...

Chelsea Specht: People Behind the Science

specht and lab members analyzing plants

Fascinating podcast on a learning and research journey

Listen to the podcast:

Associate Professor Chelsea Specht recently completed a wide-ranging interview with the popular podcast series "People Behind the Science."

In the October 2015 podcast she talks about the development of her research interests and how she followed the path that ultimately led to the work she is doing today.

In addition to being Associate Professor and Organismal Biologist in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, Specht is also Associate Professor in Integrative Biology at UC...

New PMB Faculty Member Benjamin Blackman


Research on the evolution of plant developmental responses to changing environments

By Karyn Houston Plant & Microbial Biology On January 1, 2016, Benjamin Blackman will join the faculty of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology as assistant professor.

Blackman received his Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences at Stanford, and he worked there for two more years as a technician investigating the genetics of skeletal evolution in threespine stickleback. He then completed his doctorate in evolutionary biology and ecology at Indiana University, Bloomington. His PhD studies examined the evolution of developmental timing...

Lemaux Leads Team to Study Drought in Plants

Examining the role of epigenetics

By Sarah Yang | ​UC Berkeley ​Media Relations ​

Biotechnology expert Peggy Lemaux is leading a $12.3 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to examine the role of epigenetics in allowing plants to survive in drought conditions, an increasing concern for agriculture as the effects of climate change are felt in California and globally.

​Epigenetics is the study of cellular and physiological trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes,...

Researchers Push for Millet Marketing Miracle

Nutritious, gluten-free grain requires little water

By Karyn Houston, PMB

A group of researchers from UC Berkeley is launching a campaign to grow, cultivate and market millet, a nutritious, gluten-free grain that needs little water and is rich in B vitamins.

Currently in the U.S., millet is used primarily in bird feed, but Postdoc Amrita Hazra in the Taga Lab in the department of Plant & Microbial Biology is looking to change that.

The Millet Project team has received $24,040 from the Berkeley Food Institute to explore millet cultivation at...

Apply Now for PMB Graduate Programs

Cal Script

Application deadline is December 1, 2014

The admissions application for the 2015 Graduate Program in Plant & Microbial Biology is now available.

To find out more about our Plant and Microbial Biology programs, please visit:

Helpful Links

Research Focus - Plant & Microbial Biology Research Focus - Graduate Group in Microbiology Plant and Microbial Biology Faculty Page Graduate Group in Microbiology Faculty Page ...

MAD Science - Understanding Cellular Signaling

"Acceleration without restraint" can be disastrous

By Karyn Houston Plant & Microbial Biology

A team of researchers led by the Quail Lab at UC Berkeley has zeroed in on the important process of “attenuation,” the way cells guard against potentially harmful overreactions to the external cues that enable them to adapt to prevailing conditions.

"In the biosciences, defects in signaling attenuation mechanisms are under increasing scrutiny in both medical and agricultural areas," said Peter Quail, professor in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley and research director at...

Starving Out the Enemy

Mary Wildermuth's research combats mildew attacks

How to Starve Out the Enemy

By Wallace Ravven It looks harmless enough – a light dusting like baby powder sprinkled on the leaves. But as rose lovers know, powdery mildew can attack new buds and shoots, stunt growth and distort plant development.

If not controlled, the fast spreading...