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. 39
October 3, 2015
Research. Academics. Discoveries.
In This Issue ...

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Lemaux Team: $12 Million Grant to Study Drought Tolerance

Biotechnology expert Peggy Lemaux is leading a $12.3 million project funded by the U.S.Department of Energy to examine the role of epigenetics in allowing plants to survive in drought conditions, an increasing concern for agriculture as the effects of climate change are felt in California and globally.
Sorghum at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, where field testing will take place next year. (Photo by Peggy Lemaux)

Epigenetics is the study of cellular and physiological trait variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cells read genes, instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence.


PMB Position: Assistant Professor of Virology

Applications accepted through November 13th, 2015

The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has an opening for an Assistant Professor (tenure track, nine-month appointment) with an expected start date of July 1, 2016.

The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology is seeking applications for a faculty position in virology. We seek an individual studying the biology of viruses, including but not limited to those that impact plants, bacteria, and/or archaea at the individual or community level. Research areas of interest include multiple areas of mechanistic virology, including viral replication, evolution, and virus-host interactions.


Sara Branco - Postdoc on the Move
Sara Branco

By Sarah Branco - former PMB postdoctoral scholar with Tom Bruns and John Taylor

Even if essential for the advancement of science, postdoctoral positions are by nature temporary and eventually we all need to move on. This said, I was fortunate to have had 4 wonderful and productive years as a PMB postdoc. I could think of this time only in regards to my science, as while in Berkeley I authored 12 papers, presented at 11 conferences, gave 6 invited seminars and was awarded the prestigious Mycological Society of America Fungal Forest Ecology Postdoctoral Award.

But these years were much more than just lines on my CV. I learned how to teach from undergraduates to faculty and had the chance to conduct outreach activities throughout the Bay (including dragging members of my lab and others namely to a bar in San Francisco to show people how exciting fungi are...). Was also very fortunate to team up with other postdocs to improve postdoc life and careers, with the monthly PMB postdoc lunches as the regular venue for discussion and sharing. This group was particularly helpful and supportive during my quest for an academic job.

I am now based in France. I am still a postdoc (but keep your fingers crossed!), this time at the University of South Paris, and about to embark in yet another exciting period of my life. I will be studying the evolution of mating-type chromosomes in anther smut fungi (a very interesting group of pathogens that castrates plants to make them disperse its spores) and really hope I can have a time here as fulfilling and eventful as my years in Berkeley.


Diversity Conferences
Rocio Sanchez will be among those from UC Berkeley attending the diversity conferences 
(Cory Maryott photo)

UC Berkeley student advisors, faculty and grad students will be at two diversity conferences this fall:

- Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)
- Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)

Representatives will be available to talk about the Plant and Microbial Biology Graduate Program, answer questions about the application process, talk about research opportunities at Berkeley and answer questions about attending UC Berkeley and living in the Bay Area.

UC Berkeley has a large presence at both conferences. Undergraduate and graduate students present posters and give oral presentations. Iman Sylvain (Taylor lab) will be attending ABRCMS, and Daniel Westcott (Wildermuth lab) will be attending SACNAS. Faculty participate as speakers and judges, and are available at the Berkeley exhibit booth. 

Meet Berkeley SACNAS chapter members, current graduate students, the Biological Sciences Diversity Director, and graduate program representatives, including PMB Graduate Advisor Rocio Sanchez at the Berkeley Exhibit Booth. 

Learn more by going to: - Oct. 29-31, Washington DC - Nov. 11-14, Seattle, Washington


Chris Somerville: Farmers can meet Demands for Food and Fuel

Biofuel crops, University of Illinois.
(Photo: Don Hamerman)
Whether you have taken a side or a backseat in the discussion, the "food versus fuel" debate affects us all. Some say growing more biofuel crops today will decrease greenhouse gas emissions, but will make it harder to produce food tomorrow, which has prevented the U.S. from maximizing the potential of environmentally beneficial biofuels.

In a recent article, published by the National Academy of Engineering, University of Illinois' Gutgsell Endowed Chair of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences Steve Long and University of California's Philomathia Professor of Alternative Energy Chris Somerville predict farmers can sustainably and affordably meet humanity's growing demand for food and fuel.

Full press release:


Bright Future for Agriculture Students - 57,900 Projected Jobs
Chart courtesy of USDA

Students pursuing agricultural and environmental fields will find a bright outlook for employment, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University. 

"Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment, United States, 2015-2020" projects annual openings in agricultural and environmental fields in the next five years will continue to outnumber the number of graduates prepared to take them.

The fields will see a five percent overall growth with 57,900 annual job openings in the next five years with only an average of 35,400 college graduates with bachelor's degrees or higher to fill them.

Article source:


Scientific Open House in Barker Hall

Faculty, researchers, students and staff are invited to the first-ever "MCB Scientific Facilities Open House" from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, October 8 at the Barker Hall 3rd floor.  

There will be 14 vendors in attendance with free samples, goodie bags, a T-shirt raffle, and lots of food and drink. 

Come find out about all the services available to the campus research community.


Staskawicz Lab: Improving Food Security
Professor Brian Staskawicz

UC Berkeley Professor Brian Staskawicz will take part in a newly funded global effort to improve food security and develop better disease resistance in staple crops that feed the world, including potatoes, tomatoes, mustard greens and domesticated wheat.

Staskawicz, a professor in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, will share in a $2.3 million award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The money will be granted to the Two Blades Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the discovery, advancement and delivery of durable disease resistance in crops.

The Two Blades Foundation will coordinate the four research groups; the Dangl Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Staskawicz Lab at UC Berkeley; the Jones Lab at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich; and the Weigel Lab at Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tubingen.


Apply Now for Graduate Programs

The admissions application for the 2016 Graduate Program in Plant & Microbial Biology is now available. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2015.  

For more information, including all of the relevant program links and pages, please visit:


Tsujimoto Lecture Features Dynamic Industry Leader

Rusty Rodriguez
Rusty Rodriquez, Chief Executive Officer of Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, will be speaking on November 4th, 2015 from noon to 1 pm in 101 Barker for the Tsujimoto Lecture. The title of his lecture is "Reprograming Plants for Stress Tolerance and Improved Nutrition through Symbiogenics." There will be a reception to follow in 338 Koshland Hall.

Rodriguez is a leading expert in plant-fungal symbiosis. His leadership and innovative thinking has kept Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies at the forefront of science in agriculture. Under a variety of research goals, his company ultimately seeks to "ensure sustainability in agricultural and natural systems, and reduce human suffering in the 21st century."

The lecture is hosted by PMB graduate students.

For more information on Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, visit
For a full listing of PMB seminars, visit


Free Statistical Consulting 

The Berkeley Statistical Consulting Service is now open for the fall semester. The free consulting service is operated by the Department of Statistics. Advanced graduate students, under faculty supervision, are available during specified hours to answer your statistical questions.

We welcome members of the campus community to take advantage of this service at any stage of their research. To find out more about our service and our hours of operation, please visit our website at

To schedule a meeting or ask questions about the service, please email: 


Berkeley Research News Digest

Be sure to check out the monthly Research News Digest developed by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. To view it, you must subscribe to the mailing list.

Preview of August Digest
If you have not yet subscribed and would like to do so, click here


Career Connections" - A Networking Series for All Students

The Career Center has teamed up with the Cal Alumni Association in developing a series of 20+ casual networking events during the coming year that help students make connections and gain clarity in their career pursuits.  

At each of these events, a diverse group of 10-20 Cal alumni & professionals will share their career insight and help illustrate the variety of jobs & internships offered within specific industries or career fields.  This is a great opportunity for students to practice their networking skills in a low-stress setting!

Here is the remainder of our fall "Career Connections" event lineup:
  • 10/13 - Marketing & Public Relations
  • 10/16 - Environment & Sustainability
  • 10/22 - International Students
  • 10/27 - Government & Public Policy
  • 10/28 - Teach For America Alumni Pathways
  • 11/5 - Career Speed "Dating"
  • 11/5 - Design Careers for Mechanical Engineers
  • & more events coming in spring, including site visits to employers
**Events typically take place on-campus in the evening or late afternoon.  Open to all students.**

Details and RSVP on


CalNet Login Screen Change
New CalNet login screen

The login screen for the campus CalNet system is getting a new look on October 20, 2015. The new screen has a clean, modern design and uses Berkeley-branded design elements and fonts. More importantly, it offers improved security.  

The new CalNet screen uses an Extended Validation certificate that will allow you to more easily recognize if a CalNet screen is real or fake. To identify a real CalNet login screen, just look at the address bar. If you see a long green bar with our institution's name ("University of California, Berkeley (Regents of the Univ. of CA)[US]"), you are safe to proceed.

The screenshot above shows what the new CalNet login screen looks like in Chrome. You can see what it will look like in your own web browser by navigating to: Check it out now so you aren't surprised on October 20.


Google Apps and bConnected

In response to feedback from campus, UC Berkeley has enabled additional applications provided by Google, including YouTube, Blogger, and Google+.

Unlike the Google Core Apps, bMail, bDrive, and bCal, the new applications  are not covered by the same Terms of Service and don't offer the same level of protection for your files and data. Please take the time to  understand the difference between core and consumer apps, as they each protect data differently. 

In addition, bCourses, Box, and CalShare have been added to the  Google Apps Launcher. 

If you need help with any of this or want to learn more about how to integrate Google apps for education with your research or study please contact Karyn Houston, PMB Webmaster, at 510.643.7614 or

Please go to this web page to learn more about Core and Consumer Google Apps:


Expanding Potential Workshop 

Synberc is hosting its second annual Expanding Potential Workshop to increase inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). While the first Expanding Potential workshop focused on the challenges women face in STEM, the 2016 workshop has broadened its scope to include all underrepresented groups.

The workshop will take place on January 30th and 31st, 2016 in Stanley Hall at UC Berkeley and registration will open in early October. The first day of the workshop will focus on "Recognizing the Issues", or helping students and professionals identify and understand the challenges and unconscious biases underrepresented groups face. The second day will focus on "Developing the Solutions", or building and highlighting programs that effectively foster inclusive STEM workplaces.

To keep updated please sign up for the Expanding Potential Mailing List.


Eight Assistant Professor Tenure-Track Positions
The College of Agriculture at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, invites applications from outstanding basic scientists for eight academic year tenure-track assistant professor positions that will comprise a college-wide cluster hire in fundamental plant biology. 

Candidates utilizing modern methods to address important questions in plant biology including but not limited to genomics and molecular genetics, computational modeling, biosensor/imaging, synthetic biology and metabolism are all encouraged to apply. We are interested in individuals working on molecular, organismal or ecosystem levels, and in model systems, crops, or natural systems. 

We envision that the majority of candidates will be considered for positions in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and the Department of Biochemistry. Positions are also available in the Department of Agronomy, the Department of Entomology, the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture for individuals conducting basic plant science research but with an interest in application of their research in more applied contexts. 

For more information, click here 


Important Dates  |  Upcoming Events  
Event Calendar Image


Fall 2015

10/7/15 - Roger Y. Stanier Memorial Lecture, 3:30 pm, 101 Barker, featuring David Zusman

10/13/15 - Faculty Meeting, noon, 338 Koshland

11/4/15 - Tsujimoto Lecture

11/5/15 - PMB Micro Retreat, Tilden Park

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

12/14 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