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David Bryant Lowry

IMG_2843I am an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Plant Biology and member of the Plant Resilience Institute. I conducted my postdoc in Thomas Juenger’s lab in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. I received my PhD in 2010 from Duke University’s program in Genetics and Genomics under the mentorship of John Willis. My science career began when I was a student in the Genetics and Plant Biology Program at UC Berkeley. I grew up in Sonoma County, CA. I currently live in East Lansing, MI with my  wife, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and two sons. See my CV for more details.

Ali Soltani – Postdoc


I am conducting research on common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) to understand tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. I am fascinated by amount of diversity that exists in common bean germplasm. My vision is to utilize this diversity as a tool to better understand tolerance mechanisms and translate those findings for crop improvement. At Michigan State University, I am focused on heat stress tolerance. Prior to MSU, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher (2014-2017) in the Dry Bean Genetics and Breeding Program at North Dakota State University.

I enjoy fishing, biking, occasional bird-watching and reading historic/human evolutionary books.

Acer VanWallendael – Postdoc

AcerMy research is on the genetic basis of rust tolerance in the biofuel grass Panicum virgatum (switchgrass). In addition, I am interested in the effects of polyploidy on phenotypic traits involved in local adaptation in tetraploid and octoploid populations of switchgrass. My previous work focused on an invasive polyploid Reynoutria japonica (Japanese knotweed), and in the future I hope to continue using interesting plant species to study how organisms adapt to their environment. I enjoy canoeing, skiing, cooking, reading science fiction (although there isn’t enough biology-based sci fi), and teaching people about evolution.

Murilo Peixoto – Postdoc

elephant grassI am interested in the freezing tolerance and the photosynthetic acclimation of bioenergy grasses, particularly switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). During my PhD at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of Dr. Rowan Sage, I performed research on freezing tolerance of Miscanthus rhizomes and the chilling tolerance of its leaves using fluorescence and gas exchange techniques. I also conducted research on temperature acclimation of upland and lowland varieties of sugarcane. Back in Brazil, for my first postdoc appointment, I studied photosynthetic efficiency (involving Ci* and cell anatomy) in bamboo species and rice. In summary, I am a Brazilian who is very enthusiastic for bioenergy plants, freezing tolerance, photosynthesis, soccer and beer. Yes, you read that correctly , Brazil and freezing are in the same sentence!

Caitlyn Byron – PhD Student

Caitlyn.jpgI am interested in studying variation between plant populations that differentiates the way they adapt to a changing environment, specifically in relation to anthropogenic climate change. My past experiences involved a broad range of ecologically-focused topics, but in the Lowry Lab I aim to use genetic and genomic tools and techniques to assist in answering ecological and evolutionary questions. I am currently designing studies to compare the adaptive potential of species restricted to subalpine and alpine habitats to the adaptive potential of widespread species, using Mimulus as a model system.

Damian Popovic – PhD Student

IMG_7975My studies focus on chipping away at age old questions of how & why biodiversity arises. I seek to further elucidate how widespread plant species adapt and evolve resiliency despite variable landscape-wide stressors. Specifically, I’m interested in addressing the evolution of trade-offs in divergent, locally adapted flora across prominent ecogeographic gradients. A Westerner at heart, my work is informed by an appreciation of the immense diversity inherent to the California Floristic Province and its deep relationship to the state’s rich, contrasting habitats. Prior to becoming a valued member of the Lowry Lab, I shared this profound appreciation with guests young and old as a Nature Interpreter at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont, CA. It’s my desire to continue in this vein by further bridging the gap between scientists and the general public – to live and convey that science as an endeavor and the knowledge it disseminates belong to the collective.

Jason Olsen – PhD Student

My interests lie in the integration of evolution and genetics. My primary interest is local adaptaquality_photo_jason(1)tion in plants and the underlying genetic mechanisms. I have particular interest in the Growth-Defense trade-off hypothesis, that plants cannot be both high growing and well defended under all circumstances. My previous work has been with Bochera stricta (Drummond’s rockcress) a North American mustard weed and exploring constraints to range expansion and growth-defense trade-offs. In the Lowry Lab, I am working with Mimulus guttatus (yellow monkeyflower) and exploring genetic differences in locally adapted populations which have different allocations to growth and defense. Outside of work, I am an avid reader and evangelize for my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson. Other interests include games, computers and my wonderful kitty.

Technician Team


Marisa VanDamme

Lisa Vormwald

Katelynn Walter

Undergraduate Students

Sara Simonte

Dash Devanshi

Natalie Phillips

Lab Alumni


Former Postdocs

Billie Gould – Scientist at Counsyl

Yani Chen – Iowa State University

Former Graduate Students

Fateme Shaki – University of Tehran



Former Technicians

Danny Jackson – University of Colorado

Amy Wrobleski – Pennsylvania State University

Former Undergraduate Researchers

Darlene BrennanMSU Undergraduate

Erin GumpperMSU Undergraduate

Maria DeNunzio – MSU Undergraduate

Jim Cramton – Summer Genomics@MSU REU

Karen Chanchavac – Summer Genomics@MSU REU

Josh McCauleySummer Kellogg Biological Station REU

Outstanding Undergraduates Mentored Prior to MSU

Ashley Asmus   Postdoc at University of Minnesota and coordinating scientist for NutNet

Jacob Heiling   PhD Student   North Carolina State University

Por Tangwancharoen  PhD Student   Scripps Institution of Oceanography