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Plant & Microbial Biology

The research groups associated with the thematic area of Plant and Microbial Biology investigate processes from the molecular to the organismal level that pertain to plants and their associated microorganisms. Naturally, the concepts and techniques employed intersect with those of the Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology group as well as the Genetics and Cell and Molecular Biology group.

Research in Plant and Microbial Biology seeks to understand how genetically encoded information gives rise to the properties of the organism, including properties that underlie the role of plants as converters of solar energy into bioenergy. Our scientists have embraced advanced tools that have recently become available in the global genomics community and are advancing their further development. One focus area is signal transduction, i.e.: mechanisms whereby living organisms process information from the environment into adaptive cellular and organismal responses. There is a strong emphasis on experimentation with living cells and organisms; several Plant and Microbial Biology labs are near the forefront in the pursuit of technological advances in this area.

plant cell


Gladys Alexandre
Bacterial chemotaxis and motility

Brad Binder
Plant hormone regulation of growth and development, hormone signal transduction

Barry D. Bruce
Protein import into chloroplasts; Nanotechnology of photosynthesis

Tessa Burch-Smith
The goal of research is to understand how a plastid RNA helicase regulates plamo-desmata function and development

Andreas Nebenführ
Myosin-driven organelle movement in Arabidopsis

Daniel M. Roberts
Membrane transporters and calcium signaling; nodulation

Elena Shpak
Plant development directed by cell-surface receptor kinases

Albrecht G. von Arnim
Translational regulation of gene expression; Biosensors


1. Core courses (taken by all BCMB graduate students, as well as students from other programs):

  • BCMB 511 Advanced Biochemistryprotein structure, catalysis, binding; membranes
  • BCMB 512 Advanced Molecular Biology: gene regulation, chromatin, RNA
  • BCMB 515  Experimental Techniques

2. Specialized BCMB courses (popular offerings include):

  • BCMB 513  Cell Biology: signaling pathways, cell cycle, cytoskeleton, protein trafficking
  • BCMB 522  Plant Biology I – Molecular Physiology
  • BCMB 523  Plant Biology II – Developmental Biology
  • BCMB 530  Experimental Design and Analysis: scientific writing, building, and testing hypotheses
  • BCMB 562 and BCMB 564 Electron Microscopy
  • BCMB 605-608  Journal clubs: recent topics include novel roles of RNA; protein turnover
  • BCMB 615 Special topics: recent topics include analytical techniques in protein biochemistry

3. Courses offered by other programs (such as Genome Science and Technology [Analytical Technologies, Genomics, Bioinformatics], Statistics, Microbiology, and many more.

4. Course credit for miscellaneous activities such as departmental seminars (BCMB 601) and colloquia (BCMB 603), first-year lab rotations (BCMB 516), and other ‘Thesis’ (BCMB 500) and ‘Dissertation’ (BCMB 600) activities.