Danforth Center Announces Four New Lead Investigators

New hires bring significant expertise in phenomics and plant genomics to the region.

St. Louis, MO, January 12, 2014 --(PR.com)-- The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has hired four new lead scientists to expand the Center’s groundbreaking work in plant phenomics, genomics, root structure, pathogens, and bioenergy grasses. An additional 10 – 12 scientific personnel will be recruited to each laboratory team.

The four investigators were identified through a broad search for scientists who are making important discoveries in areas that include the genetic factors that enable plants to respond to drought, pests, and other challenges. These discoveries provide the foundation for translational research leading to commercial applications that will improve agricultural productivity.

“We are excited about the focus of the research that will be explored by the new investigators. The groups will strengthen our efforts to use genomics, imaging, and analytical technologies to accelerate discovery and contribute to achieving food and energy security,” said Jim Carrington, president of the Center.

Elizabeth Kellogg, Ph.D., joins the Danforth Center as a Member. Dr. Kellogg studies cereal crops and the evolution, domestication, and genetic architecture of their wild relatives in the grass family. Her research has lead to identification of genes that contribute to the diversity of the primary cereal crops used for food. From 1998-2013 Kellogg was the E. Desmond Lee and Family Professor of Botanical Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). Prior to her tenure at UMSL, she was an Associate Professor at Harvard University, where she received her Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Academia Nacional de Ciencias, Argentina, and the Academy of Science of St. Louis.

“Having moved to St. Louis in 1998, I've watched the growth and development of the Danforth Center since its beginning. I am excited to join the Center and to work with an incredible group of people,” Kellogg said. “My work on development and genomics of cereal grasses contributes directly to the Center’s focus on translating basic research into results that provide food and fuel for the U.S. and the world.”

Rebecca Bart, Ph.D., joins the Center as an Assistant Member. Her lab will combine genetics research with molecular and computational biology to study the mechanisms of plant-microbe interactions in cassava and other plants. Before joining the Danforth Center, Dr. Bart was a USDA-NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-Berkeley where she worked to further understand the molecular and genetic interaction between cassava and the pathogen that causes “Cassava Bacterial Blight.” She received her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California-Davis and her B.A. from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Dan Chitwood, Ph.D., joins the Danforth Center as an Assistant Member. His research will explore the relationship between gentotype and phenotype, particularly as it relates to leaf development. Prior to joining the Center, Dr. Chitwood was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California-Davis. He received a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and a B.S from the University of California−Davis.

Christopher Topp, Ph.D., joins the Danforth Center as an Assistant Member. He is pioneering new approaches for understanding how environmental and genetic factors influence root growth in plants. As a USDA-NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke University, Dr. Topp directed the development of a high-throughput 3D root imaging and analysis pipeline to map regions of the rice genome that determine root architecture. He received his Ph.D. in Plant Biology and B.S. in Genetics from the University of Georgia.

"The Danforth Center is unique because of its focus on real-world impact. The Center’s culture will allow me to translate scientific discoveries into tangible improvements in crop yield and sustainability,” Topp said. “And the St. Louis community has a rare enthusiasm for plant science. I can't imagine another place that would be more supportive of my research goals, and I greatly anticipate future collaborations and synergies with my new colleagues.”

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research aims to feed the hungry and improve human health, preserve and renew the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants and contract revenue from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations.

The Danforth Center invites you to visit its website, www.danforthcenter.org, featuring interactive information on the Center scientists, recent news, the 2012 annual report, and “Roots & Shoots” blog that help keep visitors up to date with Center’s current operations and areas of research. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Melanie Bernds
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