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Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

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Danforth Center Expands with New Principal Investigators

St. Louis, MO, April 06, 2016 --( The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is growing with the addition of two principal investigators, Ru Zhang, Ph.D. and Malia Gehan, Ph.D. The new scientists bring significant expertise in plant genomics and phenomics, and strengthen the Center’s focus on agricultural productivity and sustainability in changing environments.

“We are implementing the next phase of our expansion with the hiring two terrific scientists,” said James Carrington, Ph.D., president of the Danforth Center. “They both bring new technologies, approaches and expertise that fit well with the priorities of the Center, and they are exceptional collaborators who will build strong scientific research programs.”

Gehan will focus on understanding and improving temperature stress tolerance of plants, including cereals and underdeveloped crops like quinoa, and will develop new technologies that expand the Center’s investment in phenotyping. Since 2012, she has served as a National Science Foundation Plant Genome Initiative postdoctoral fellow in Todd Mockler’s laboratory at the Danforth Center. Gehan also co-founded the Center’s Maker Group and has made many contributions to education and outreach. She received a Ph.D. in plant biology at Michigan State University and a bachelor of arts in biology at Willamette University, Salem Oregon.

“I am so excited for the opportunity to grow a research program here,” stated Gehan. “It has been a privilege to work with the outstanding researchers and staff here at the Danforth Center. I am looking forward to expanding collaborations here and to continuing many of the outreach programs we have started.”

Zhang’s research focuses on the understanding mechanisms of photosynthesis in unicellular and multicellular plants. In addition to photosynthesis, her expertise lies in spectroscopic techniques, algal genomics and organelle evolution. “I am interested in how photosynthesis in higher plants and green algae responds to stresses, like high temperatures,” said Zhang. “The understanding of photosynthesis in these organisms could help make the process more efficient and robust under challenging environmental conditions, which in turn can improve food and biomass production.”

After receiving her Ph.D. in plant physiology and biochemistry in 2009 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Zhang has been a Carnegie Institution for Science postdoctoral associate since 2010, She will be joining the Danforth Center in September.

“We are delighted that Malia Gehan and Ru Zhang will be joining the faculty at the Danforth Center this summer,” said Toni Kutchan, Oliver M. Langenberg distinguished investigator and Vice President for Research. “They bring such high levels of energy and creativity to their scientific research, and that is central to the success of our mission as we go forward.”

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, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Melanie Bernds
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