Dr. Simon Malcomber (Biological Sciences)
B.Sc. Botany with Zoology, University of Reading, UK (1990)
Ph.D. Evolutionary and Population Biology, Washington University in St. Louis (2000)
My students and I use a variety of evolutionary, molecular, morphological and developmental techniques to investigate (1) how plants are related to one another (systematics) and (2) the developmental and genetic changes that cause plants to look different from one another (Evolutionary Developmental Genetics).
Most of our research is focused on the grass family (Poaceae, including the cereal crops barley, maize, oats, rice, sorghum, tef, and wheat) and immediate grass relatives such as Ecdeiocoleaceae, Joinvilleaceae, Flagellariaceae, Anarthriaceae, Centrolepidaceae and Restionaceae. We are particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms regulating the way flowers appear (floral morphology) and how flowers are arranged upon a plant (inflorescence morphology). These characters are used extensively in taxonomic keys to identify the different species and have also been under intense selection during the domestication of the different cereal to improve crop yield.
We have two major projects currently in the lab. The first examines the evolution of a group of MADS-box transcription factors that have been linked to the origin of novel floral structures and grasses and a second gene family that has been shown to be involved in the production of determine branching structures in maize. The second project investigates the evolution and diversification of genes regulating the plant hormone auxin that is involved in the growth of all lateral structures in plants.