University of California, Berkeley   |  College of Natural Resources 

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

PMB Blue Logo
Issue No. 38
August 2015
Research. Academics. Discoveries.
In This Issue ...

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Welcome New Faculty Members 
Matt Traxler
On July 1, Assistant Professor Matt Traxler joined the faculty of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. He comes to Berkeley with his wife, Ann, and their two children, Lily, 3, and Isaac, 3 months. 

Traxler's research explores the chemical ecology of interactions between actinomycete bacteria.

Collectively, actinomycetes are the single deepest source of medicinal natural products, including antibiotics, antifungals, and anticancer agents. 

The Traxler lab will incorporate transcriptomics, genetic screens and newly developed mass spectrometry techniques to understand the physiology of actinomycete interactions as they relate to natural product biosynthesis. Goals of the lab also include translating these insights into a new platform for natural products discovery.

Adjuncts Devin Coleman-Derr, John Vogel

In addition to Traxler's appointment, the department has recently added adjuncts.

Devin Coleman-Derr
Devin Coleman-Derr, a principal investigator at the Plant Gene Expression Center in nearby Albany, has been appointed Assistant Adjunct Faculty.  

Coleman-Derr studies how abiotic stress affects plant- associated microbial communities, and the role of plant growth-promoting microrganisms in improving abiotic stress response in cereals, with a major focus on Sorghum bicolor, an important forage and biofuels crop.

A goal of this work is the development of microbial-based strategies for increasing yield and resilience in the face of drought, an issue of growing importance for California agriculture. He seeks to identify the rules that govern microbial community assembly in the rhizospheres of diverse grass species, including both host, microbe, and environment-derived factors. 

Read more about Coleman-Derr and his research at:

John Vogel
John Vogel is joining the depatment as adjunct professor.

Vogel is in charge of the Plant Functional Genomics Research program at the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute.

Prior to that he served as a Research Molecular Biologist at the US Department of Agriculture  for 12 years where he was a driving force behind the development of numerous genomic resources that fostered the widespread adoption of Brachypodium distachyon as an experimental model for the grasses.


Seminar Series for Fall 2015

A robust seminar schedule for Fall 2015 kicks off with a seminar by Sheila McCormick, adjunct professor in the department, on Wednesday, August 26 entitled "The History and Future of Pollen Molecular Biology: Technique Development, Discoveries and  Remaining Challenges".

The series continues throughout the semester and includes two endowed seminars:
  • Buchanan Lecture - September 9, 2015
    Sam Hazen | Department of Biology | UMass Amherst
    "Daily Rhythms and the Transcriptional Regulation
    of Plant Biomass Accumulation"
  • Tsujimoto Lecture - November 4, 2015
    Rusty Rodriguez | Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies
    "Reprogramming Plants for Stress Tolerance and Improved Nutrition
    through Symbiogenics"
For more information about each seminar, please visit
The link also contains information about student and postdoc lectures, Plant Gene Expression Center lectures and other seminars throughout campus. Some seminars and calendars are still being scheduled.

A great place to bookmark and refer to often is our pmb calendar which lists all lectures and department events:


Millet - It's Not Just for the Birds Anymore
Millet beer, sliders, sausages, seeds and more at Gill Tract Farm Sunday

For the last few months, the Millet Project team has been working hard farming four types of millets, educating the community about the awesomeness of the highly nutritious, drought-tolerant, and gluten-free grains, and cooking up a storm and learning with family and friends about tasty millet recipes.

Now the public can share the experience and learn all about millet at the Millet Project Exhibit on August 30th, 2015, from 12 - 5 pm at the UC Gill Tract Community Farm in Albany.

At the Millet Project Exhibit, you will have the chance to:

1. See beautiful millet fields
2. Meet Millet Project farmer-collaborators (yes, the people who actually grow our food and have diverse local farms) and supporters.
3. Taste millet-based food
4. Pick up seeds to plant your own millets, and millet samples to cook your own millet dishes

Find out more and RSVP:


Save the Dates -- Department and Microbiology Retreat
Plant and Microbial Biology Department Retreat
The Clark-Kerr campus is about a mile from the main UC Berkeley campus.

The Fall 2015 PMB Research Retreat will be held at Clark Kerr Center at UC Berkeley on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. 


The all-day Retreat is an opportunity to meet with department colleagues, share your work and present posters. We promise to deliver a packed scientific agenda as well as a lot of fun at this year's annual Departmental Retreat.


Microbiology Retreat 

The Brazil Room is at Tilden Park, about two miles from campus and is easily accessible by car, bus or bike.
The third annual UC Berkeley Microbiology Retreat will be Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park, a short drive from campus but worlds away as a place to get away, meet and collaborate.

This full-day retreat pulls in attendees from throughout campus and is very popular. The day includes scientific presentations, a poster session and great food with plenty of time to mingle and network.


For more information about the retreats, click on the following links:

PMB Retreat

Microbiology Retreat


Dow Summer Intern Program  -- Apply Now

s not too early to think about next summer, especially regarding internships. Dow Agro has announced that internships are available in chemistry, biology and computer science, including, but not limited to, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, microbiology, plant breeding, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, surface chemistry, engineering (chemical, biological, material, or optical) and informatics (bio and chem).
The laboratory-based Research and Development internships are located at Dow's global headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is a paid internship. Salaries are adjusted according to the student's year in school. Subsidized housing is available for qualified students. Students pursuing a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate degrees from a U.S.-based college or university with proper U.S. work authorization or the ability to obtain work authorization through their university are eligible.  

Interested students should apply at
Applications will be accepted between August 1 and November 1, 2015 for the 2016 program.


Busy Summer at PMB Plus Two New Hires


Department staff has had a busy summer getting ready for the arrival of new students, graduate student orientation, retreat planning and upkeep and maintenance of our web sites, programs and facilities.


In addition, the department offices in Koshland 111 have been repainted and updated. While some of this work is still continuing the goal will be to turn Koshland 111f into a proper conference room, similar to Koshland 111e. The Koshland offices are for use of anyone in the department and work well for small meetings, student sessions and office hours.


Also, conference rooms on every floor, including the very popular Koshland 338, our busiest conference room, were cleaned, repainted, updated and new flooring was added.


A new mobile web site is also being built and will be ready to debut soon for departmental and public feedback before being launched live.


Please come by to check out the work that has been done so far.


In addition two new employees are joining the department staff. Mayra De La Cruz is our new front desk coordinator and Doug Santoro has been hired in the Teaching Lab as a Staff Research Associate.



New Learning Website for UCB Staff - Wisdom Cafe
UC Berkeley has just launched  our new learning website for UCB staff to learn, share insights and contribute information on working and thriving at UC Berkeley.

Current articles on the site include:

- Preparing for the opening of Fall Semester on campus
- Learning opportunities for UC Berkeley staff
- An article entitled "Leading in Academia" by Carol T. Christ.

If you have feedback or questions about the site please contact Inette Dishler

192 University Hall
Berkeley, CA  94720-3548

The site will be very dependent on user interaction and user activity. Check it out at:


Roger Y. Stanier Memorial Lecture
 PMB's own 
David Zusman
David Zusman, professor emeritus in the Departments of Plant & Microbial Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology will be speaking on October 7, 2015 from 4-5 PM in 100 GPB. The title of the talk is "Uncovering the Mystery of Gliding Motility in the Bacterial Predator Myxococcus Xanthus". 

The focus of Zusman's research has been to determine how signal transduction regulates directed motility and behavior in the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus using an integrated approach that combines biochemistry, genetics, and cell biology. 

Important Links:


Welcome New Graduate Students

New graduate students in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology will begin graduate program studies at the end of August. Below are the students, their undergraduate institutions and whether they are in the plant or microbiology program. 


Sean CarimHong Kong University of Science and Technology, University College Utrecht
Alfredo Chavez-ArroyoUC Davis
Kristopher KennedyLos Angeles Pierce College, UCLA, Cornell University
Dylan McClungMercer County Community College, College of New Jersey
Tuesday SimmonsUniversity of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Gordon PherriboCarnegie Mellon University
Sumayah RahmanNortheastern University
Marietta Ravesloot-ChavezUniversity College Utrecht

Plant Biology

Martin AlexanderCity College of San Francisco, UC Berkeley
Sonia ChapiroUC Davis
Thai DaoFranklin and Marshall College
Brianna HainingNew York University Abu Dhabi
Grady PierrozUC Berkeley
Patrick WestUniversity of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Heidi WipfUniversity of Pittsburgh, New York University 


Arnon and Grace Kase Fellowships 

Arnon and Grace Kase fellowships have recently been awarded to graduate students in the department.

Cynthia Amstutz (Niyogi Lab) and Johan Jaenisch (Wildermuth Lab) were named Arnon Fellows for the academic year 2015-2016. The Arnon fellowship was established to support PMB graduate students pursing research in plant biology. These fellowships are bestowed annually in the name of the late Professor Daniel I. Arnon, an internationally acclaimed pioneer in Plant Biochemistry and Photosynthesis, who served as a faculty member in this department for nearly 60-years.  

Tess Scavuzzo-Duggan (Scheller Lab) and Amanda Shelton (Taga Lab) were named Grace Kase Fellows for the academic year 2015-2016. This fellowship was established to support PMB graduate students pursing research in plant biology or microbiology.The Grace Kase Fellowship, endowed by the K/T Foundation, celebrates Dr. Harry Tsujimoto's (Grace's husband) long and productive affiliation with and career at UC Berkeley.  

Each fellow is receiving financial support (fees and stipend), in addition to the prestige and recognition that accompanies such fellowships.



Important Dates  |  Upcoming Events  
Event Calendar Image


Fall 2015

8/20/15 - Graduate Student Orientation

8/26/15 - First Day of Instruction, McCormick Seminar

9/7/15 - Labor Day Holiday

9/8/15 - PMB Faculty Meeting, noon, 338 Koshland Hall

10/13/15 - Faculty Meeting

11/10/15 - Faculty Meeting

11/11/15 - Veteran's Day Holiday

11/25 to 11/27/15 - Thanksgiving Holiday (note non-instructional day on Wednesday, 11.25)

12/1/15 - Graduate Program Applications Due

12/4 - Last Day of Classes for Fall Semester

12/8/15 - Faculty Meeting

12/11/15 - Holiday Party

12/14 to 12/18/15 - Finals Week

12/24/15 to 1/1/16 - Winter Holiday, University Offices Closed

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