Lab News

Lab Member Profile: Ryan Murphy was recently profiled by the College of Continuing & Professional Studies. Read it here:


04/11/2019: At HortSci Grows, lab researcher Penny Kinanian won the outstanding staff award and Ph.D. student Vincenzo Averello came in first place in the grad student lightning talk competion.

Penny Kinanian with Horticultural Science department chair Emily Hoover

HortSci Grows Lightning Talk Winners Sharon Perrone, Emily Hoover (department chair), Seth Wannemueler, and Vincenzo Averello

01/26/2019: At the Department of Horticultural Science Grad Student Lightning Talks, our graduate students Claire Milstead and Vincenzo Averello.

Claire Milstead Speaking on Double Strand Break Repair

Vincenzo presents his Rutger's Master's work on fescue diversity

05/03/2017: Today's lab meeting was very special. Visiting scholars Nida (Doctor to be, from Pakistan) and Guang (Doctor to be, from China) made some very special food for the lab. Nida studies food science and tomato postharvest physiology, all those food were great! Nida's Pakistan cuisine and Guang's Chinese dish with preserved egg and tufu :).

Nida's Pakistan-cuisine and Guang's Chinese dish


05/01/2017: The lab welcomes Nelson Garcia! Nelson joined us as a postdoc fellow after completing his PhD at the Rutgers University advised by Drs. Jo Messing and Hugo Dooner. Nelson will work on the maize homologous recombination project.

04/01/2017:  Chen Lab received a tomato breeding grant from MDA. A three year tomato breeding project to improve tomato nutritional value.

12/05/2016: Chen Lab welcomes Guang Shen! Guang is a visiting scholar from China working on Russian Dandelions!

11/01/2016: Chen group receives two grants from MDA. One for tomato breeding and another one is for evaluating Ginkgo as a specialty crop to North America. 

10/15/2016: Chen Lab welcomes Nida Firdous! Nida is a visiting scholar from Pakistan working on tomato postharvesting. 

7/8/2016: Chen Lab is grateful to Fink family for a gift fund to breed and develop new vegetable varieties for Mid-west growers! Thanks to Henry, Amy and Ben for their generosity and for their support to researchers at the University of Minnesota! 

 5/13/2016: Chen Lab receives 2016 GIA funding for our maize recombination research project, Cheers!


5/9/2016: The manuscript for maize meiocyte small RNA profiling, authored by Steffi, Anitha, Thiru, Shahryar, Wojtek, Joann, and Changbin, is now accepted for publication in the journal of Frontiers in Plant Science, and it is available online.

maize sRNA FiPS


4/27/2016: A blog liked Clemon’s Silica Body method paper, while talking about Forensically fascinating phytoliths.


4/22/2016: Both Thomas Lake and  Musse Hussein received UROP grants, congratulations!


4/18/2016: Congratulations to Anthony (Harris)! Anthony will go on to graduate school: University of California at Berkeley!!!

Anthony Harris


3/31/2016: A review paper regarding mitochondria in plant development and stress response is now online at the journal (Free Radical Biology and Medical)’s website.

mitochondria meiosis capture


3/23/2016: There is a fish in the tiny pond of the Mary Hoover’s Medicinal Plant Garden. It must have eaten all the tonic herbs grown in the Garden Plot (Eleuthero, Codonopsis, etc). That could be the reason it survived the cold Minnesota winter. The pond is covered by a thin layer of ice and surrounded by snow today!

fish in pond


2/12/2016: UMGC/Illumina 2016 NGS has granted our pilot project to sequence our favorite genome using Illumina’s 2×125-bp flowcell. We will have Dr. Joann Mudge’s group at NCGR to help us assembling the genome.  Hope it works, otherwise we hope to use PacBio sequencing platform :).


1/21/2016: Today’s lab star is this Corning Hot Plate Stirrer! It was found from the University of Minnesota ReUse program and was marked as “Semi-Useless”.  He played the leading role in today’s paper published in the journal of “Plant Methods”:  And it will be the world famous Hot Plate Stirrer. Cheers!

Corning Hot Plate Stirrer

Corning Hot Plate Stirrer


1/6/2016: Dr. Anne Hall from the Office of Technology Commercialization informed us that the UMN is filing Plant Variety Protection to PVPO for our new dwarf tomato varieties: Ground Jewel and Ground Dew. Both lines are dwarf, high yield, short season, which are great for short season locations such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Canada, and should be good for Alaska.


12/22/2015: Clemon’s method paper to study silica bodies in grasses is accepted by “Plant Methods” today. Congratulations, Clemon! This work has been supported by American Golf Association (to EW) and Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (to CC, EW). Other authors are Jason, Eric, and Changbin.

silica bodies in grasses


12/18/2015: Congratulations to Claire! Claire is awarded $400 travel grant by MPGI to attend 2016 Gord0n Research Conferences–Meiosis.


12/10/2015: Ross Peterson, the first undergraduate student who worked in the lab completed his PhD program and defended today! Congratulations, Dr. Ross Peterson! This image was taken by Alicia showing Dr. Peterson and his advisor Dr. Andrade at UIUC.  Dr. Peterson will continue his career at Abbott Laboratories

Dr. Peterson and his advisor Dr. Andrade


10/28/2015: Images for decorating the Department office

poster for lab wall

For years, Dr. Chen has been considering himself a semi-professional photographer. No published art works except a number of journal cover images. Thanks to Echo and Lauren for them to select a few biological images from Chen’s image bank to decorate the Department office wall. Images are good, but can you ID those plants? Those images are from 4 species of horticultural crops: Potato, Pumpkin, Peanut and Apple.


10/15/2015: Free pumpkins:

Winter is coming, there are still a lot of pumpkins in the field. Feel free to pick some. Those are pumpkins from our breeding program for vegetable (pumpkins) and medicine (naked seeds). So you can use pumpkins (especially those green ones) for soup, pie, or spaghetti, and the naked seeds for baking needs, eating raw, adding to your breakfast, etc. Those pumpkins are on the Agricultural Experiment Station field plot A7S, and Hort trial garden plots (North side to the Mary Hoover’s medicinal plant garden plot). This project was started by visiting professor Majid Azizi in this past spring.



10/12/15: One of the new tomato varieties, MNX097 was suggested by Judy with a name of “Ground Jewel”. The fruits of MNX097 are half green and half white, yield up to 6 lbs per plant that occupies about 1 sf of farm land. We are still seeking more name suggestions for our MNX104, which is similar to MNX097, except that the young fruits are white.


“Ground Jewel” tomatoes.Very short season, fruits start to mature at later July/early August in center and north Minnesota.

 tomato breeding

ground jewelsground jewelsground jewels


10/06/15: There are still tomatoes and tomatillos in the field. If you are interested in picking up some, please contact Ryan!


10/02/15: Steffi annotated the FEHLSTART gene on TAIR website.


09/26/15: The function of Arabidopsis FEHLSTART protein, a plant specific protein, was characterized and published online in the Plant Journal.  FEHLSTART regulates entry and synchronization of male meiosis.