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John Fowler Jr

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Office: 541-737-5307

Cordley Hall

Cordley Hall 3621

2701 SW Campus Way

2701 SW Campus Way
Corvallis, OR 97331

Plant cell and developmental biology

  • My primary research interest is in the molecular mechanisms that govern cellular morphogenesis and development in plants.  At the cellular level, I am most interested in how the regulation of two cellular processes – cell polarity and exocytosis – is integrated into developmental systems at the organismal scale.  My research group is currently using a variety of complementary techniques in genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, bioinformatics and ‘omics-scale approaches to investigate these processes.  Our primary experimental model is the male gametophyte of Zea mays, including germinating pollen and the growing pollen tube.  Recently, we have successfully incorporated computer vision-enabled phenotyping of populations of kernels on a maize ear to assess the effects of a large set of DsGFP-marked mutations on the male gametophyte, which we are combining with ‘omics-based measures to inform a systems level understanding of pollen development and function.


Research Group Members

Faculty Research Assistants/Associates

  • Zuzana Vejlupkova

Graduate Students

  • Harrison Flieg (PhD, expected 2026)
  • Harrison Bell (PhD, expected 2027)

Undergraduate Research Students

  • Michelle Bang (co-mentored with Dr. Duo Jiang, Statistics)
  • Dan Hickey
  • Michelle Majstorich
  • Andrea Perez
  • Cynthia Waite

Undergraduate Lab Assistant

  • Jackson Macdonald

Genetic Engineering and Crop Plants

In 2014, I was asked to serve on a College of Agricultural Sciences committee seeking to provide an academic, fact-based view of the current understanding of agricultural biotechnology.  This coincided with the vote in Oregon on 'GMO' labeling, and was intended to be useful information for voters in the state.  The committee was composed of scientists across a range of disciplines at OSU, and the five white papers produced by the committee are at  The topics covered include not only the basic biology related to GMO's, but also food safety, how social benefits can be assessed, and how the topic relates to human values.

For clarity and evaluation of possible conflicts of interest, I provide a bit about my background and current position:

Counting my undergraduate, I have 30+ years of training in genetics and plant biology, and see myself as almost exclusively doing research in basic biological sciences.  My salary is paid completely by the University – I get no salary from outside grants or contracts.  My lab has been funded by grants from federal agencies – the National Science Foundation, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.  I do not have any patents, nor do I see any likely to come in the future, based on my research area.  I have never received any funds from a corporation for myself, my projects, my travel or my lab.

To the best of my memory, my connections to corporations are minimal, and, as follows: I have several friends and scientific colleagues that work in seed/biotech companies (e.g., Pioneer Dupont).  I have one ongoing (but mostly dormant at this time) collaboration with Pioneer, in which they supplied my lab with resources – specifically, lines of maize harboring particular mutations – that allowed us to deduce some genetic function for certain genes (publication at  If this collaboration were to be ended, it would not be a major disruption to my lab's current research.  Part of my lab's work is on maize (corn), a major crop, but I am interested in it primarily as a model for discovering new biological knowledge, not as a focus for 'crop improvement'.