Plant Systems Biology

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Jenny Mortimer

Director of Plant Systems Biology

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Catharine Adams

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Rebecca Dewhirst

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Jonathan Diab

Research Assistant

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Yu Gao

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Kavitha Kumar

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Xiaoxian Liu

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Tallyta Silva

Research Associate

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Yuan Zhang

Post Doctoral Researcher

In the future, the range of bioproducts produced from plant biomass will be immense. The starting material, the polysaccharides and lignin of the plant cell wall, are complex. The goal of our lab is to understand polysaccharide biosynthesis, and use this knowledge to deliver optimized biomass for the bioeconomy. Our work focuses on sorghum (a biomass crop in the US), with some work in  switchgrass and Arabidopsis (a model plant, which we use for initial experiments). We use a combination of systems biology, protein functional characterization, and biophysics to explore polysaccharide biosynthesis at multiple scales. We are also interested in how alterations to the cell wall can affect plant-microbe-environment interactions.


  • Developing new methods for sorghum transformation and cell culture
  • Developing new bioinformatics tools for sorghum researchers
  • Biochemically and biophysically characterizing the plant secondary cell wall
  • Bridging understanding between lab- and field-grown plants using ‘omics
  • Identifying and characterizing novel glycosyltransferases and nucleotide sugar transporters, especially those responsible for sorghum secondary cell wall synthesis
  • Engineering plant biomass with increased hexose content by manipulating mannan biosynthesis
  • Investigating the biosynthesis and function of glycosylated sphingolipids (GIPCs)

Non-JBEI Projects

  • Developing a high-throughput bioactivity platform (in collaboration with Aindrila Mukhopadhyay, Ben Brown, and Mina Bissell)
  • Design and prototyping of a replicated mesocosm system for bridging lab and field research (in collaboration with Gary Andersen, Mary Maxon, and Louise Glass)

Featured Publications

See Google Scholar profile for complete list.