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UC Davis

Professor Luca Comai
Univeristy of California Davis, California, USA

Luca Comai, born in the Dolomiti region of Italy, was trained in plant pathology and genetics at WSU and UC Davis. He joined the Calgene Inc plant biotech start-up in 1981 where he described the first alteration of EPSP synthase for glyphosate tolerance. In 1990, he joined the department of Biology at the U of Washington in Seattle where he became interested in polyploidy and, with S. Henikoff and C. McCallum, developed TILLING, a functional genomic method based on induced mutations. In 2006 he moved to the department of Plant Biology and Genome Center at UC Davis where he works on induced mutations, polyploidy, dosage variation, centromere function and sex chromosomes. He has been involved in the study of CENH3 for nearly a decade and is currently optimizing genome elimination and developing its use for efficient plant breeding. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He teaches introductory biology, genetics, and genomics.

Ek Han Tan
Postdoctoral Fellow
Han Tan, born in Borneo, did his undergraduate studies at Duke University where he investigated systemic acquired resistance in plants under the direction of Xinnian Dong. Intrigued by plant molecular biology he undertook graduate studies at Washington University in St Louis, working on RNA silencing in plants in the laboratory of Craig Pikaard. His Ph.D. research focused on variant non-catalytic RNA polymerase subunits and their surprising role for the functional specification of RNA Polymerases IV and V in the small RNA directed DNA methylation pathway. He also studied the role of DNA demethylation in large-scale epigenetic silencing. In 2011, he joined the laboratory of Simon Chan as a postdoctoral scholar and began working on chromosome biology to understand the consequences of genome rearrangements, using traditional genetics and next generation genomics approaches. He is currently a member of the Luca Comai’s group where he investigates aneuploidy and genomic instability during centromere-mediated genome elimination.

Mohan Marimuthu
Postdoctoral Fellow
Mohan Prem Anand Marimuthu is from a traditional farming family in southern India. He studied general agriculture for his bachelor and specialized in plant breeding for his master degree. He found his passion for chromosomes, plant reproductive biology, and microscopy while working on Arabidopsis meiosis for his Ph.D degree at CCMB, India in the laboratory of Imran Siddiqi. Mohan was part of the science team that showed the possibility of cloning plants synthetically through seeds. In 2011, he joined the late Dr. Simon Chan’s lab at UC Davis as a postdoctoral fellow to study the mechanism of centromere mediated genome elimination in Arabidopsis. Currently, he is continuing this study in the Comai’s lab. Mohan’s future plan includes teaching plant biology while carrying out small millets and lentil breeding.

Shamoni Maheshwari
Postdoctoral Fellow 
Shamoni Maheshwari was born and raised in New Delhi, India. She received her Bachelor in Science from Delhi University in 2002 and her Master in Science from IIT Bombay in 2004. She graduated at the top of her class in both programs for which she received the Baratula Savitri Memorial prize and the Institute Silver Medal, respectively. In 2004 she joined the Molecular Biology and Genetics PhD program at Cornell University, Ithaca NY on a Presidential Genomics Fellowship. There she joined the lab of Dr. Dan Barbash where she used evolutionary and genetic approaches to dissect the molecular basis of reproductive isolation in Drosophila melanogaster. During this time she developed a deep interest in speciation and genetic conflict. In November of 2011 she joined the lab of Dr. Simon Chan to pursue these questions in the context of the Arabidopsis centromere. In September of 2013 she was awarded the Gordon and Betty Moore Fellowship from the Life Sciences Research Foundation to investigate the functional and evolutionary consequences of rapid centromere divergence.