University of California, Berkeley   |  College of Natural Resources 

A Newsletter for Faculty, Students, Staff and Friends of the Department

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Issue No. 45
May 5, 2016
Research. Academics. Discoveries.
In This Issue ...

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Kris Niyogi Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Kris Niyogi
Kris Niyogi, professor and chair of Plant & Microbial Biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a scientist can achieve.

Niyogi studies photosynthetic energy conversion and its regulation in algae and plants. He has one of the largest labs in the department, and is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Niyogi also was recently elected to the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Niyogi's long-term research goals include understanding how photosynthetic energy conversion works, how it is regulated and how it might be improved to help meet the world's needs for food and fuel.


Department Citation to Outstanding Students
Manraj Sekhon (Mei Mei photo)

Manraj Sekhon, a microbial biology undergraduate student, enjoys working in a research lab because it enables him to explore science in a way that "reinforces and enriches the concepts learned in the classroom."

Along with Noah Gardner, Sekhon was awarded the Plant & Microbial Biology Citation in recognition of outstanding academic work at UC Berkeley. Each student will receive $500.

Every year, PMB awards the major citation  to the top  graduating undergraduate student in the Genetics and Plant Biology major, and the top student in the Microbial Biology major. The recipients are selected by the faculty for academic excellence and contributions to UC Berkeley and the community. 


Matt Traxler - 2016 Searle Scholar 

Matt Traxler, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, has been named a 2016 Searle Scholar. The Searle Scholars Program supports the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry.

Traxler will receive $300,000 in flexible funding over the next three years to fund his research investigating the role of specialized metabolites in mediating bacterial interactions. Specialized metabolites include antibiotics, antifungals, and anti-cancer agents.  The Traxler lab aims to use knowledge about how these metabolites function in natural settings for leveraging the discovery of novel, potentially useful microbial compounds.

Read more: 


The Secret Language of Microbes
Fusion of two fungus germlings. (N. Louise Glass photo)

By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley

Fungi communicate by chemical signals only, but they, like humans, appear to use different dialects.

This discovery came from a UC Berkeley study by PMB Professor N. Louise Glass of the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, a red bread mold that has been studied in the laboratory for nearly 100 years.

Many fungi, including  N. crassa, grow as filaments or hyphae that often fuse to form an interconnected network. Hyphal networks have been shown to be important to many fungi, including the mycorrhizal fungi that form associations with plant roots, sharing nutrients.


N. Louise Glass Receives Award
Helmut Schwarz giving award to N. Louise Glass

UC Berkeley was well represented at the 44th Symposium for Research Award Winners of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation held in Bamberg, Germany between March 17th-20th, 2016.

Awardees included UC Berkeley Professors Jeffrey A. Reimer, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Ulrike M. Malmendier, Economics; Daniel Tataru, Mathematics; and N. Louise Glass, Plant and Microbial Biology.

Glass is shown in the photo receiving her award from Professor Helmut Schwarz, president of the Humboldt Foundation. Each of the awardees will spend six to 12 months working with colleagues in Germany.


College Campuses Take on Food Waste

If you piled up all the perfectly edible food that Americans throw away each day, it would fill the Rose Bowl, twice. Put another way, about 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten - Americans toss out $165 billion worth of food each year.

Fresh produce delivered to UCLA University Village
"It's a really huge number," said UC Berkeley graduate st
udent Becky Mackelprang. "Reducing that number could make a very big impact on society."

At college campuses around the country, students like Mackelprang are at the forefront of the fight against food waste.


Taylor-White Lecture Video Now Available

For those who missed it, the 2016  Taylor-White Lecture, which took place on March 30th, is now online. Featured speaker was David Hibbett of Clark University: "Getting to the Roots of Rot: Fungal Phylogenomics and the 'End of the Carboniferous Period.'"

Youtube video link here:


Upcoming Symposia, Events and Dates to Remember


PMB Social - Open to Department Students, Faculty, and Staff  Only 

Please join us for a PMB Picnic on the Pat Brown Lawn from 
4 pm - 7 pm Thursday 5/12/16. 

Bring your  appetite , your  playful spirit  and a  blanket or lawn chair.

Food :   Venga Paella .  Come watch them prepare, cook and serve onsite. Cooking will start at   4 pm   and food will be served at   5 pm .  All paella is gluten-free.

Menu will include:
  • Traditional Paella: Mixed seafood (mussels, clams, calamari, prawns) with chorizo.  
  • Vegetarian Paella: Butternut squash, leeks and wild mushrooms 
  • Organic spring mix salad with cranberries, nuts and strawberry vinaigrette
  • Cookies and brownies
  • Beer, wine and soft drinks
 For event information, contact or call  510.642.9999.


Save the Date -- PMB Retreat 2016 at Marconi Conference Center
WHO: PMB Students, Faculty, Postdocs and Staff

Our off-campus Annual Retreat

WHEN: Friday, August 26-28, 2016
WHERE: Marconi Conference Center, Tomales Bay
Additional information available at

Questions? Please contact Karyn Houston  |  510.643.7614  |


Sixth Annual Bay Area Symposium on Viruses

WHO: Bay Area Symposium on Viruses
WHEN: Friday, May 27, 2016, 9 am - 6 pm
WHERE: Li Ka Shing Center Auditorium (Room 245), University of California, Berkeley

Confirmed speakers:
  • Amy Kistler - Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research
  • Christine Livingston - Gilead Sciences
  • Jonna Mazet - UC Davis
  • Steven Deeks - Gladstone Institutes/UC San Francisco
  • James Hurley - UC Berkeley
  • Marion Lanteri - Blood Systems Research Institute
  • Yvonne Maldonado - Stanford University
Please register at
The 6th Annual Bay Area Symposium on Viruses is sponsored by the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging & Neglected Diseases (CEND). 


Microbiology Student Symposium 

The Microbiology Student Group at UC Berkeley invites you to join us for the 17th Annual Microbiology Student Symposium on Friday, May 6, 2016 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley. 

This year, keynote speakers are Victoria Orphan from Caltech and Micheal Laub from MIT.

PMB Article:


2016 Summer Bioinformatics Workshops

Registration is now open for two bioinformatics workshops:
The workshops will be held on the UC Davis campus and will run from 
9 am to 5 pm  each day.

Prior course participants have included faculty, post docs, grad students, staff, and industry researchers. There are no prerequisites other than basic familiarity with genomic concepts. Anyone with an interest in sequence analysis is welcome.

For more information, visit the links above or contact


Event Calendar Image
Spring 2016

5/6 - Last Day of Instruction

5/9 - Finals Begin 

5/12 - PMB Social, Genetics & Plant Biology Lawn

5/23 - Instruction Begins

5/30 - Memorial Day

Summer / Fall 2016

7/4/16 - Fourth of July Holiday

8/24/16 - Instruction Begins Fall 2016 Semester

8/26 - 8/28 - PMB Retreat, Marconi Conference Center

111 Koshland Hall    I    Berkeley, California 94720    I    510.642.9999      I


The PMB newsletter is produced by the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, UC Berkeley.


Professor Kris Niyogi, Chair

Professor Pat Zambryski, Associate Chair


Dana Jantz, Chief Operating Officer 

Karyn Houston, Communications / Webmaster / Newsletter Editor 

Rocio Sanchez, Graduate Program

Jennifer Halpert and Ricky Vides, Undergraduate Majors Advisors