Plants are essential for human life, providing both the food we eat and the air we breathe.  Recent technological advances are driving tremendous progress in our understanding of plant biology and our ability to develop needed improvements. 

At Rice University, we are using modern molecular, genetic, and bioinformatic tools to address such fundamental questions as how plants develop, respond to their environment, sense and respond to signaling molecules, and synthesize an incredible diversity of chemical compounds.  Of particular interest for Rice University, given its close association with the Texas Medical Center, much of plant science and biotechnology is naturally linked to the biomedical field.  For example, nutrition and natural product discovery and/or modification for new drug development are areas of interest for both plant biologists and biomedical researchers. 

The Center for Plant Science at Rice University is focused on fundamental discovery and biotechnology research in plants and plant-based products.  Our work is exploiting the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, in which we can generate thousands of transgenic plants, isolate mutants defective in almost any process, and rapidly clone the genes affected by these mutations.  The Arabidopsis genome is completely sequenced, which enables whole genome analyses, such as transcriptional and protein profiling.  Ultimately, the information gained from these studies will not only increase our basic understanding of plant biology, but may allow the development of improved crops, plants that withstand diverse environmental stresses, and plants that produce valuable compounds, such as anti-cancer agents.


Research Areas Include:

Environmental Stress
Plant Signaling
Metabolic Engineering
Plant Nutrition

Part of the
Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering

Participating Faculty (contact information):

Bonnie Bartel:  Genetic approaches to understanding peroxisome biogenesis, microRNAs, triterpenoids, and plant responses to and metabolism of the growth hormone auxin

Janet Braam:  Regulation and functions of calcium sensor proteins and cell wall modifying enzymes in plant growth and responses to the environment.

Kendal Hirschi:  Molecular and genetic analysis of plant nutrient acquisition and calcium signal transduction.

Seiichi P.T. Matsuda:  Genetic and analytical chemistry investigations of sterol and terpene metabolism and function in plants.


The Role of Arabidopsis in Plant Science Research (from the National Science Foundation)
About Arabidopsis
The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR)