Faculty Partners


BOEC Partners

The Biotechnology Outreach Education Center (BOEC) is based at Iowa State University and supports the work of the Office of Biotechnology.  At the core of our work are healthy and inspirational partnerships.  Through equitable collaboration, diverse perspectives, and bias-free learning communities, we work to fulfill our mission.

The BOEC benefits from active partnerships with many institutions and individuals – both on campus and elsewhere.  Here are some thoughts from and about several of our current partners.

Dean Adams

Department of Ecology, Evolution & organismal biology

Our research focuses on the macroevolution of multivariate phenotypes.  We develop new analytical tools for quantifying multivariate phenotypes (geometric morphometrics), new statistical permutation approaches for high-dimensional data, and new phylogenetic comparative methods for multivariate phenotypes.  His empirical work focuses largely on morphological evolution in vertebrates.  

Sarah Anderson

Department of Genetics, development and cell biology

Our lab studies how genetic variation among maize varieties influence gene expression and downstream phenotypes of crop plants.  This year we are experimenting to understand how nitrogen stress leads to variation in root growth angle, influencing plant growth and yields.  We also use many computational tools to understand the genomic differences underlying these traits.  

Alicia Carriquiry

Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE)

Our research focuses on applications of statistics in human nutrition, bioinformatics, forensic sciences, and traffic safety. Current research focuses on digital evidence, growing in importance as digital devices become ubiquitous in modern society. This type of evidence poses unique challenges, from recovering illicit data or software hidden on phones and tablets to examining digital traces of user activity (e.g., messages/texts, login events) for signs of criminal activity. CSAFE research addresses the increased demand for digital forensics tools and methods built on strong probabilistic and statistics foundations.

Shui-zhang Fei

Department of Horticulture

Our research focuses on the use of genetics and molecular tools to study mechanisms that control the development of key agronomic traits such as tolerance to abiotic stresses in economically important grasses including perennial ryegrass, creeping bentgrass, switchgrass and the model grass, Brachypodium.  

Alex Gonzalez

Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

Our research focuses on studying the evolution of observed winds, moisture, and temperature associated with heavy precipitating events in the east Pacific Ocean intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ, east-west oriented band of clouds and precipitation near the equator). Our research group places focus on improving our understanding of daily–weekly variations in ITCZ position, width, and strength, which can involve the ITCZ shifting hemispheres or splitting from a single to a double ITCZ. We use state-of-the-art observations and variety of numerical models to investigate the multi-scale physics of ITCZs in different ocean basins, such as the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Steven Hall

Department of Ecology, Evolution & organismal biology

Our research focuses on understanding patters of organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling across terrestrial and wetland ecosystems.  This work spans ecosystems ranging from tropical forests to urban streams to agricultural wetlands, and addresses applied sustainability questions in addition to fundamental ecological mechanisms.  We are particularly interested in better understanding how biotic/abiotic interactions among microbes, plants, and minerals affect the stabilization, transformation, and losses of organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus.  

Matthew Hufford

Department of Ecology, Evolution & organismal biology

Our research focuses on the demography and local adaptation of ancient farmer varieties of maize known as “landraces”, the evolutionary significance of gene flow across taxa in the genus Zea, and genome assembly and comparative genomics of maize, teosinte and grass species in the Andropogoneae tribe.  

Dior Kelley

Department of Genetics, Development and cell biology

Our research explores how auxin signaling modules control diverse developmental processes in Arabidopsis.  I am applying a variety of molecular approaches to these studies, including RNA-seq, Ribo-seq, proteomics, and phenotyping.  Such multi-scale integration will elucidate new aspects of auxin biology, including links between different aspects of gene regulation and identify novel regulators of plant development.  

Young-Jin Lee


The Lee group has interests in developing new mass spectrometry techniques and applying to solve science and engineering problems.  The two current major focus areas are mass spectrometry imaging in single cell or subcellular level high-spatial resolution, and understanding complex bio-oils produced through thermochemical conversion.  

Sara Lira

Corteva Agriscience

Dr. Lira’s research focuses on breeding for emerging climate-positive cropping systems.  Her work has lately emphasized the development of cropping systems, including annual and perennial cover crops and double crops for the Midwest.  

Gustavo Macintosh

Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology (BBMB)

Our lab works on a variety of things, mostly centered around the two big questions, how do eukaryotic cells recycle ribosomes, and what are the molecular bases of compatible and incompatible interactions between plants and insects? Gustavo also dedicates a significant effort to increase equity and inclusion in STEM. I consider this aspect of my profession on par with scholarly work and teaching and not a side project that can be relegated to a minor role.

James Michael

Department of Mechanical Engineering

The multiphase reacting flow laboratory uses optical and spectroscopic techniques to investigate energy-harnessing systems, including liquid sprays, detonation, and other propulsion systems.  Our work is multidisciplinary – combining physics (optics), chemistry, and engineering approaches to understand the underlying mechanisms as energy (temperature) moves through these systems.  

Raj Raman

Department of agricultural and biosystems engineering

Dr. Raman is teaming with colleagues to develop crop production systems that conserve soil, improve water quality, while increasing producer income.  These goals – which have often been found to be conflicting with one another – could be achieved by combining perennial ground covers with conventional row crops – thereby sidestepping bare-earth methods and shifting large-scale ag production toward a more sustainable approach.  

Michelle Soupir

Agriculture & Biosystems Engineering (ABE)

Dr. Soupir is concerned about the health of our environment.  Since beginning her work at ISU in 2008, she and those working in her lab have studied various aspects of local watersheds and water quality. The Soupir lab has a passion for learning about the existing threats to local bodies of water and what we can do to mitigate potentially harmful situations.

Some of their studies focus on using innovative strategies to remove nitrates from field runoff water. These investigations often employ ‘woodchip bioreactors’ to house nitrogen-removing bacteria that lower nitrate levels before the runoff joins other bodies of water. Dr. Soupir uses lab- and field-based research projects to monitor the occurrence, fate, and movement of nutrients and microorganisms in surface and drainage water.

Jeanne Serb

Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB)

My research examines how biological diversity originates and is maintained through the interactions of multiple levels of biological organization, mainly how selection influences the creation and recreation of specific phenotypes, such as eyes. Eyes have evolved over fifty times in animals and encompass a great diversity of forms. Despite the many different eye types of animals, from jellyfish to humans, the proteins that transform light into a chemical signal or ‘light sensing machinery’ are similar across eyes. Learning about the genetic processes that drive the conversion of a n-visual structure to an eye is essential to understanding how organisms can re-purpose genetic material to give rise to a new organ and adapt to changing environments. 

Dan Szymnaski

Botany and Plant Biology, Purdue University

Dan Szymanski’s lab is trying to understand how protein complexes can function across wide spatial scales to control plant morphology. His research combines forward genetics, biochemistry, and quantitative live cell imaging. Recently, in collaborations with materials scientists and computational biologists, his team is learning how plant cells dynamically reorganize the cytoskeleton and the cell wall to program cell morphogenesis. Target traits for genetic improvement are cotton fiber quality and leaf anatomy. Another major project in the lab is the development and use of proteomic methods for systems level analyses of protein complex composition and dynamics.

Amy toth

Department of Ecology, Evolution & organismal biology

Amy is interested in the mechanisms and evolution of insect sociality, using paper wasps and honey bees as model systems.  Current research projects involve de novo sequencing of paper wasp genomes and transcriptomes, comparative genomic analysis of Hymenoptera, genomic and epigenetic mechanisms regulating caste evolution, and the influences of nutrition and viruses on honey bee behavior and health.  

Nicole Valenzuela

Department of Ecology, Evolution & organismal biology

My research focuses on vertebrates, with turtles as a study system.  My lab also develops genomic resources for the scientific community. 

Xinwei Wang

Mechanical Engineering – Micro/Nanoscale Thermal Science Laboratory  

The last 50 years have witnessed the transformation of solidstate devices from objects of mere scientific curiosity to being at the heart of information technology. Electronic and optoelectronic devices are now so ubiquitous in modern society that their use often goes unnoticed. One of the main factors that has enabled this dramatic transformation is the ability to control the flow of charge in semiconductors. While charge flows only in metals and semiconductors, heat on the other hand flows in all materials. It is, therefore, natural to ask the question: What are the fundamental and engineering limits on the control of heat flow in solids? In our lab, we focus on the TET technique, and thermal diffusivity of micro fibers.

Jonathan Wendel

Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB)

Our research focuses on mechanisms underlying the means by which flowering plant genomes and phenotypes diversify, with a special focus on the phenomenon of genome doubling, or polyploidy using the cotton genus (Gossypium), in which two diploid and two polyploid species were each independently domesticated thousands of years ago. This nature evolutionary and early human history provide a model framework for exploring the comparative basis of domestication, the origin of form and of diversity in nature, and the evolutionary consequences of genome doubling.

Roger Wise

Plant Pathology & Microbiology

Research in the Wise laboratory is focused on the high-throughput functional analysis of important agronomic genes in cereal crops. We use a variety of interdisciplinary approaches, including plant and microbial genetics, molecular biology, plant pathology, and bioinformatics & computational biology. THE OVER-ARCHING QUESTIONS WE SEEK TO ADDRESS ARE: How does the host regulate immune signaling networks in response to pathogen attack? What mechanisms do pathogens employ to reprogram host cellular processes to favor disease progression at different stages of infection?

Yanhai Yin

Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology

My laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms and gene regulatory networks through which plant steroid hormone, Brassinosteroid (BRs), regulate plant growth and stress responses. We use a combination of genetics, genomics, computational modeling and predicative phenomics approaches and model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in our research. Our long-term goal is to apply the knowledge generated from model systems to improve crop production under adverse climate conditions.

Olga Zabotina

Department of Biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology

Our lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of polysaccharide biosynthesis in Golgi.  We utilize a broad range of approaches, including reverse-genetics, cellular, molecular, and structural biology, and biochemistry and a wide array of cells, including mammalian, plant, yeast and bacteria.  Specifically, we investigate the functional organization of the large Golgi localized multiprotein complex involved in biosynthesis of xyloglucan, a highly branched polysaccharide in plant cells.  

Thoughts from our Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Partners

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