Arthur Grossman believes that the future of plant science depends on research that spans ecology, physiology, molecular biology and genomics. As such, work in his lab has been extremely diverse. He identifies new functions associated with photosynthetic processes, the mechanisms of coral bleaching and the impact of temperature and light on the bleaching process.

He also has extensively studied the blue-green algae Chlamydomonas genome and is establishing methods for examining the set of RNA molecules and the function of proteins involved in their photosynthesis and acclimation. He also studies the regulation of sulfur metabolism in green algae and plants.  

Grossman and team go beyond the lab as well. They study genetic and DNA sequence diversity among primary producers in hot spring mats and the mats’ ability to go from oxygenated to non-oxygenated conditions. Understanding  the physiology and community structure of hot spring microbial mats were probably critical for the early oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere.

The Grosssman lab is looking toward the future by examining the use of nanoelectrodes and atomic force microscopy to probe the structure and dynamics of the photosynthetic apparatus, and pathways for photosynthetic electron flow in photosynthetic microbes in marine and fresh water environments. One goal of this research is to develop both physical and electrochemical platforms to extract energy from photosynthetic organisms.

Grossman received his B.S.  in biology from Brooklyn College and his Ph. D.  from Indiana University. Before coming to Carnegie as a staff mameberin 1982, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University. For more see

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Senna tora photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
November 24, 2020

Palo Alto, CA— Anthraquinones are a class of naturally occurring compounds prized for their medicinal properties, as well as for other applications, including ecologically friendly dyes. Despite wide interest, the mechanism by which plants produce them has remained shrouded in mystery until now.

New work from an international team of scientists including Carnegie’s Sue Rhee reveals a gene responsible for anthraquinone synthesis in plants.  Their findings could help scientists cultivate a plant-based mechanism for harvesting these useful compounds in bulk quantities.

“Senna tora is a legume with anthraquinone-based medicinal properties that have long

PolyP courtesy of Arthur Grossman and Emanuel Sanz-Luque
October 15, 2020

Palo Alto, CA— In a changing climate, understanding how organisms respond to stress conditions is increasingly important. New work led by Carnegie’s Arthur Grossman and Emanuel Sanz-Luque could enable scientists to engineer the metabolism of organisms to be more resilient and productive in a range of environments.

Their research focuses on polyphosphate, an energy-rich polymer of tens to hundreds phosphate groups which is conserved in all kingdoms of life and is integral to many cellular activities, including an organism’s ability to respond to changing environmental conditions.

“The ways in which polyphosphate synthesis and mobilization can be

Moises Exposito-Alonso
October 6, 2020

Palo Alto, CA— Carnegie’s Moises Exposito-Alonso has been selected for a National Institutes of Health Director’s Early Independence Award, which recognizes “outstanding junior scientists” for their “intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity.”

The honor is part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Program, designed to fund highly innovative, potentially transformative biomedical and behavioral research at all career stages. The awardees from all four of the program’s categories are recognized for their trailblazing abilities in a research area that falls under the agency’s mission.


August 3, 2020

Palo Alto, CA— Carnegie’s Sue Rhee and Moises Exposito-Alonso are leading members of an initiative to identify genes related to stress tolerance in the mustard plant field pennycress. Theirs was one of seven biofuel research projects awarded a total of $68 million over five years by the Department of Energy. 

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind and scientists from a wide variety of fields are applying their expertise to help understand and mitigate its effects. This includes plant scientists, whose work can help maintain food security in a warming climate, sequester carbon pollution from the atmosphere, and develop renewable energy

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Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now that many genomes from algae to mosses and trees are publicly available, this information can be mined using bioinformatics to build models to understand gene function and ultimately for designing plants for a wide spectrum of applications.

 Carnegie researchers have pioneered a genome-wide gene association network Aranet that can assign functions

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation

Phillip Cleves’ Ph.D. research was on determining the genetic changes that drive morphological evolution. He used the emerging model organism, the stickleback fish, to map genetic changes that control skeletal evolution. Using new genetic mapping and reverse genetic tools developed during his Ph.D., Cleves identified regulatory changes in a protein called bone morphogenetic protein 6 that were responsible for an evolved increase in tooth number in stickleback. This work illustrated how molecular changes can generate morphological novelty in vertebrates.

Cleves returned to his passion for coral research in his postdoctoral work in John Pringles’ lab at Stanford

Brittany Belin joined the Department of Embryology staff in August 2020. Her Ph.D. research involved developing new tools for in vivo imaging of actin in cell nuclei. Actin is a major structural element in eukaryotic cells—cells with a nucleus and organelles —forming contractile polymers that drive muscle contraction, the migration of immune cells to  infection sites, and the movement of signals from one part of a cell to another. Using the tools developed in her Ph.D., Belin discovered a new role for actin in aiding the repair of DNA breaks in human cells caused by carcinogens, UV light, and other mutagens.

Belin changed course for her postdoctoral work, in

Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso joined the Department of Plant Biology as a staff associate in September 2019. He investigates whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with climate change by conducting large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments. He also develops computational methods to derive fundamental principles of evolution, such as how fast natural populations acquire new mutations and how past climates shaped continental-scale biodiversity patterns. His goal is to use these first principles and computational approaches to forecast evolutionary outcomes of populations under climate change to anticipate potential future