Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1993
Postdoc, Indiana University (NIH postdoctoral fellowship), 1997
The research in my lab centers around the goal of understanding evolution of land plants, following three main lines: 1) reconstructing plant phylogeny using molecular approaches, 2) investigating evolution of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes in early land plants, and 3) examining the effect of changes of the abiotic and biotic environment on plant evolution and vice versa since the origin of land plants in the mid-Ordovician. Over the last several years, we have been analyzing both gene sequences and genomic structural features to unravel diversification patterns of early land plants and early angiosperms. We have also worked extensively on evolution of group II introns in the mitochondrial genome. At present, we are continuing our work in these two areas. We also developing projects to study evolution of genetic basis of various aspects of plant-environment interaction. In the near future, we will begin working on evolution of the nuclear genome, to understand the roles of introns and transposons in genome evolution and their potential contribution to generating organismal diversity.
Plant Evolution – EEB 420
This course aims to give students an advanced and updated perspective of plant evolution. It begins with an introduction on phylogenetic concepts, and then gives an update on phylogeny of photosynthetic life forms: eubacteria, archaea, algae, and land plants. The main parts of the course are to discuss evolution of plants in three perspectives: evolutionary genomics, evolutionary developmental biology, and evolutionary ecology. The evolutionary genomics will cover both organellar and nuclear genomes. For organellar genomics, the theories of endosymbiotic origins of mitochondria and plastids as well as those on origins of algae via secondary or tertiary endosymbiosis will be presented. For nuclear genome evolution, the following aspects will be covered: the composite origin of the genome at the beginning of eukaryotic evolution, roles of transposons and introns in genome evolution in eukaryotes in general, the role of polyploidization in plant genome evolution, and synteny in angiosperm genomes. The evo-devo part will be devoted to gain an understanding of how chemistry, physiology, morphology, and ecology of plants had evolved, on aspects of chemical defense, adaptation to different physical environments, development of different mating systems, and evolution of different pollination and seed dispersal strategies. Finally, interaction of plants and their biotic and abiotic environment will be examined from a historical and phylogenetic perspective. For plant-other organism interactions, three types are to be looked at: positive, neutral, and negative (all from the plant’s perspective). The part on change of abiotic environment will focus on evolution of substrate, atmosphere, and geography.