Department of Plant Biology & Pathology
Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology
201B Foran Hall/ Cook Campus
59 Dudley Rd.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office: Room 201B Foran Hall, 848-932-6348
Lab: Room 201 Foran Hall, 848-932-6270
I am a mycologist and have been studying various groups of Fungi, the second largest kingdom of eukaryotic life. An estimated 1.5 million species of Fungi comprise a diverse group of organisms that have vital functions as decomposers, pathogens and other symbionts in ecosystems, but after two centuries of active study, only about 5% of these prognosticated fungal species have been discovered by scientists. Plant-fungus symbiotic associations are extremely common but the maj ority of plant-associated fungal communities have yet to be sampled. Huge gaps persist in our understanding of fungal biodiversity and evolution. My long-term goal is to contribute to resolving vital principles for the study of evolution and biodiversity of Fungi, especially those that are associated with grasses.
I have three primary research interests that are intrinsically linked to each other:
- Fungal systematics and evolution:
We currently are working on the Magnaporthaceae, an ascomyceteous fungal family that contains several important plant pathogens, including the rice blast fungus, take-all pathogen of cereals, and the summer patch pathogen of turfgrass. Please see the Fungal Genome Initiate and the Magnaporthaceae Names Blog.
- Fungal biodiversity and their functional role in the ecosystem:
- Fungal biodiversity and barcoding
- Exploring and evaluating the significance of mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen cycling microbes to switchgrass production
- Impact of 2011 Fukushima (Japan) nuclear accidents on the surrounding forest fungal communities
- Development of novel molecular methods for rapid diagnosis of pathogenic fungi.
New pathogens are emerging all the time and many known pathogens are fast evolving due to dramatic climate change, host switching, and frequent transportation by humans. I am interested in developing new molecular methods for rapid pathogen detection and identification. We are currently developing a Turf PathoCHIP (array based method) and real-time PCR for turfgrass and other plant pathogens.
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Dr. Ning Zhang is an assistant professor and joined the department in 2009.