Tyler Helmann and Adam Adair conduct plant research
By Karyn Houston
Plant & Microbial Biology
Two graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology have been granted prestigious Arnon fellowships to support their research and educational goals.
“It is a great honor to receive this fellowship, in honor of the inspirational scientist Dr. Daniel Arnon,” said Tyler Helmann, who works in the lab of PMB Professor Steve Lindow. “The support that this fellowship provides will allow me greater flexibility to pursue my diverse scientific interests, and creatively seek to address open questions in the field of plant-microbe interactions.”
Fellow recipient Adam Adair agrees.
"It is truly a great privilege and honor to call myself an Arnon Fellow," said Adair, who is mentored in his research by Bob Fischer and Daniel Zilberman, both professors in the department.
"I greatly admire scientists like Dr. Arnon for their important and thorough research in the lab and their academic involvement outside of the lab; Dr. Arnon is an outstanding example of what a scientist should be," Adair said.
Both students are in the second year of the Graduate Program to pursue a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley.
Helmann's Research Focus
Helmann is interested in the complex interactions between plants and microbial pathogens (the infectious agents that produce disease).
Helmann is studying Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae strain B728a, a model plant pathogenic bacterium that colonizes the leaf surface before infection.
"I am currently looking at transcriptional changes that occur during the transition between growth on the leaf surface (epiphytic) and in the leaf intercellular space (apoplastic)" Helmann said. "Examining genes that are preferentially expressed on the leaf surface or within the plant will provide insight to the important genes involved in plant-microbe interactions."
Adair splits his time between two labs. His general research interests are in epigenetics and plant development.
Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence; it also can be used to describe the study of stable, long-term alterations in the transcriptional potential of a cell that are not necessarily heritable.
"I find it fascinating that all the different cell and tissue types in a single plant contain the same genetic code, no matter how different the cells and tissues might be," Adair said.
"A small change of an epigenetic regulator like DNA methylation, histone modifications or non-coding RNAs can lead to dramatic changes in the cell’s structure and function, despite no changes in the genetic code. I hope to spend my career identifying and characterizing many of the different epigenetic changes that can affect different critical developmental processes in plants."