Dr. Ru Zhang, Principal Investigator
Assistant Member, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, since September 2016
Education and trainings:
Postdoc, Department of Plant Biology, Carnegie Institution for Science, 2010-2016
University of Wisconsin-Madison, PhD, 2009
Nankai University, China, BS, 2005
Ru's research experience centers on photosynthesis and range from plant physiology/biochemistry to algal genomics to organelle evolution. During her PhD training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she worked with Dr. Thomas Sharkey using gas exchange and spectroscopic methods to study the effects of high temperature on photosynthesis in leaves of Arabidopsis and tobacco plants. During her postdoctoral training with Dr. Martin Jonikas and Dr. Arthur Grossman at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Ru continued to explore photosynthesis by developing high-throughput genotyping and quantitative phenotyping tool for the eukaryotic, unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to identify photosynthesis-deficient algal mutants on a genome-wide scale. She also participated in the generation of a genome-saturating, indexed, mutant library of Chlamydomonas. The library could be used as both forward and reverse genetic platforms to dissect cellular processes under various conditions. In addition, she has worked on the photo-acclimation of the green amoeba Paulinella chromatophora (which has nascent “plastids” that evolved much more recently, 0.06 billion years ago) to gain insight into the evolution of photosynthetic organelles. She is passionate about how photosynthesis in plants/algae responds to abiotic stresses, especially heat stress. Her long-term career goal is to engineer photosynthesis for improved agricultural and biofuel production.
Outside of lab, Ru enjoys playing with her kids, cooking, swimming, and watching movies.
Ph.D. Molecular Biosciences, Arkansas State University. (Graduated with the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Molecular Biosciences Ph.D. program.
M.S. Biotechnology, Arkansas State University.
B.S. Bioengineering, Qindao Agicultural University.
Ningning received her PhD in Molecular Biosciences in May of 2017 by dissecting the O-glycosylation process of plant cell wall structural glycoproteins and reengineering the plant cell wall for improved biomass processability. She started in the Zhang Lab as a postdoctoral research associate in the same month to study how photosynthetic organisms respond to their environment by using cutting-edge technologies. Specifically, Ningning is using the unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, as a model system to better understand how photosynthetic cells sense and respond to high temperatures. A genome-saturating, indexed, algal mutant library and a quantitative phenotyping tool are used to conduct high-throughput genetic screening for mutants with interesting phenotypes.
In her free time Ningning likes to work with plants, especially cacti. She also likes staying active by running frequently and playing pingpong.
Ph.D. Biological Engineering, Northwestern University (expected June, 2018)
B.S Cell and Molecular Biology, Ohio University in Athens
Her graduate work focuses on engineering the properties of the prototypical MAP Kinase pathway in yeast for use in biosensor diagnostics. In the Zhang lab, Sarah will use the grass Setaria viridis as a model organism for photosynthesis in C4 plants such as maize and sorghum. She will combine traditional genetic approaches with engineering techniques to improve the thermostability of C4 photosynthesis, making C4 plants more tolerant of high temperature stresses.
In her free time, Sarah enjoys cooking, running, opera and knitting.
Laboratory Technician, Laboratory Manager
University of Missouri, Columbia
BS in Biological Engineering, 2016
Mathematics and Spanish Minor
Will received his bachelor's degree in biological engineering (emphasizing in biomedical engineering and biophotonics) from the University of Missouri, Columbia. During his time there, he was involved with several research teams including computational ecologists, herpetologists, and R&D engineering companies. In all of these positions, much of his work focused on computational data analysis and automated data collection pipelines. In the summer of 2015, Will participated in the Danforth Center's Summer REU Program where he worked in Doug Allen's Lab investigation carbon fixation pathways in soybeans using isotopic labeling and mass spectrometry technologies. Will started in the Zhang Lab in November of 2016 and will be working as a lab manager and lab technician while frequently focusing on bioinformatics pipelines and data analysis.
Will enjoys running, swimming, and climbing. He additionally enjoys music and tinkering with electronics.
Rotating Graduate Student
BS in Biogical Sciences, 2017
Erin received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University in May 2017. Her work there focused on the genetic aspects underlying meiotic recombination in maize. In the summer of 2015, she was an REU intern in the lab of Dr. Thomas Brutnell, where she studied the genetic similarities between plant interactions with mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. She is now a first-year graduate student in the Plant and Microbial Biosciences program at Washington University.
In her free time, Erin enjoys cooking, swimming, and exploring the local community.
University of Missouri, Columbia
Business Administration Major (emphasizing in Marketing
Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and a minor in Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has worked in the administrative field for the past six years and has done everything from payroll processing to office management to assisting with grant proposal submissions. Michelle joined the Danforth Center in July of 2016 and serves as an Administrative Assistant for several of the labs here, including the Zhang lab.
Outside of work, Michelle enjoys practicing yoga. She is a registered yoga teacher and spends her free time teaching classes and deepening her knowledge of the practice
Summer REU Intern
Gustavus Adolphus College
BA in Biology, 2017
James will receive his bachelor’s degree in Biology (emphasizing in plant biology) from Gustavus Adolphus College in December, 2017. While at Gustavus, James conducted research on plant ecology emphasizing statistical modeling and will continue using mass spectrometry to study plant proteomics. During the summer of 2017, he will be working in the Zhang lab to optimize the use of environmental photobioreactors to better understand the effects of heat stress on Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
James sails, mountain bikes, camps and climbs mountains in his free time. He is hoping to summit his 30th mountain by summer’s end.
The Zhang laboratory is current recruiting a postdoctoral researcher. If you are interested, please apply at Danforth website