John Fowler, PI

The Fowler lab studies the molecular mechanisms that govern cellular morphogenesis and development in plants. Broadly, we are interested in how cellular processes – for example, exocytosis – are integrated into developmental systems at the organismal scale. The lab uses a variety of complementary techniques in genetics, genomics, transcriptomics, cell biology and (more recently) computational analysis of digital images to investigate these processes. The lab’s current focus is on the male gametophyte of Zea mays, including pollen and the growing pollen tube, structures required for crop plant reproduction and seed generation. Our current challenge is to utilize large scale datasets (e.g., from transcriptomics) to predict phenotypic outcomes (e.g., which genes exert the largest influence on reproductive success?).

Lab website:


Students will help choose from two possible projects: 1) developing approaches for automated analysis of digital images of phenotypes, i.e., ‘computer vision’; or 2) processing and analyzing whole genome sequence data to determine the genomic location of certain types of mutations that could influence plant development and reproduction. Tasks may include generation of training sets for machine learning and image analysis; genome and gene model sequence analysis; and/or using transcriptomic data to generate hypotheses regarding gene function. One recent publication from the lab exemplifies our genomic and transcriptomic work: Warman et al. 2020


Students will learn fundamental concepts in plant genetics, molecular and cellular biology. Students will use genomic and/or high content digital imaging data to learn the scientific process.