Assistant Professor of Health and Wellness StudiesBinghamton University, State University of New York
Nutrigenomics, Neurodegeneration, Nutrition, Mental Distress, Microbiota, Food
Begdache’s research interests include nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics, neurodegeneration, nutrition and mental distress, and microbiota. She teaches several courses, including Human Nutrition and Metabolism, Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology, Principles of Cell Biology, Molecular Genetics, and Pathophysiology of Nutrition-Related Diseases. Begdache was featured by publications such as Bustle and The New York Post for her researching showing a connection between food and mood, and she wrote a piece for The Conversation on the hefty price of study drug misues on college campuses.
Chief Science OfficerCoriell Life Sciences
pharmcogenomics, clinical decision support tools, Precision Medicine, personalized medicine, Translational Science, Stem Cells, Epigenetics, DNA, Genomics, Population Genomics, laboratory systems
Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, MS, is the Chief Science Officer at Coriell Life Sciences where he oversees the company’s research, education, and clinical programs and leads efforts focused on bridging the gap between genetic science and clinical application. Dr. Shaman brings years of experience in advising cross-functional teams together with his scholarship in genetics, pharmacology, stem cells, and clinical laboratory operations. Along with the CEO, he forges strategic partnerships with worldwide companies, laboratories, academic institutions, public/private self-insured companies, and federal, state, and regional healthcare and employee systems. Dr. Shaman supports a team of scientists dedicated to precision medicine and who actively research, publish, and present findings in top-tier peer-reviewed journals. He is passionate about educating people from all backgrounds about the power of genetics and pharmacogenomic testing that is integrated with patient health history and clinical decision-support to proactively promote better health. Dr. Shaman holds a doctoral degree from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, where his research centered on DNA, epigenetics, and nuclear structure and function. He earned his Master of Science degree from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Cell & Developmental Biology. Dr. Shaman held a faculty position at the University of Hawai‘i Institute of Biogenesis Research before serving a fellowship at Harvard Medical School and implementing a translational research program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation.
Luis Rafael Herrera-Estrella is the President's Distinguished Professor of Plant Genomics and the Director for the Center for Functional Genomics of Abiotic Stress in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. Dr. Herrera-Estrella came to Texas Tech in 2018 thanks to a grant from the State of Texas Governor's University Research Initiative (GURI). He leads a team in the Center that examines how plants adapt to thrive in the presence of environmental stresses such as extreme heat and cold, drought and in the presence of brackish water sources. Herrera-Estrella is known and respected worldwide for his work in cotton genomics, having earned the distinction in 2015 as one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology by Scientific American. He previously served as the director and full professor of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO) in Guanajuato, Mexico, where remains a professor emeritus. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that allow plants to cope with a continuously changing environment. In particular, he has studied the two fundamental processes of molecular responses to light as a source of energy and a developmental signal, and nutrient availability. Herrera-Estrella was able to eventually identify DNA regulatory elements that allow plants to activate genes in response to light stimuli and the protein sequence present in many corresponding gene products that ultimately allow participation in the photosynthesis process. A holder of 15 patents, Herrera-Estrella has published more than 180 research papers and 47 book chapters and other reviews while having delivered more than 200 presentations on his work. He served as a senior international research scholar at the Howard Hughes Biomedical Institute from 2012 to 2017 and earned the Dr. Luis Federico Leloir Award in 2012 from the Argentinian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Herrera-Estrella earned his doctoral and postdoctoral degrees in genetics from the State University of Ghent, Belgium. He received his master’s degree in genetics and molecular biology from the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, and his bachelor’s degree from Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas Instituto Politécnico Nacional.
Elizabeth Anne Kellogg is an American botanist who now works mainly on grasses and cereals, both wild and cultivated. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1983 and was a professor of Botanical Studies at the University of Missouri - St. Louis from September 1998 to December 2013. Since 2013 been a Principal Investigator at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Missouri. In 2020 she was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Elizabeth has spent her career studying cereal crops and their wild relatives in the grass family, plants on which all of civilization depends. Her unique contribution has been to forge connections between scientists in the front lines of biodiversity research and those breaking new ground in genetic and genomic studies. The Kellogg lab’s work identifies deep similarities among plants as apparently disparate as rice, wheat, maize, and the other cereals. Because similarity and difference are two sides of the same coin, in the process they have also discovered genes that contribute to the diversity of the great cereals of the world. Members of the Kellogg lab believes that food security is a human right, and that plant scientists have an obligation to contribute to feeding the growing global population. This is central to the mission of the Center, to “feed the hungry and improve human health.” Cereal crops in the grass family – including rice, maize (corn), wheat, sorghum, barley, and oats – have fed civilizations for millennia, and are the center of our research. These crops were selected by humans from an entire ecosystem of wild grasses, which dominate and more than ¼ of the land area of the earth. By studying how the wild plants grow, make seeds, and adapt to drought and floods, we can learn how to make more resilient crops. Conversely, by studying cereal crops, we can predict how wild grasses may adapt to a warmer, drier climate. This aspect of our work reflects the second part of the Center’s mission, to “preserve and renew environment.” The third part of the mission is to “enhance the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science.” As you can see in the descriptions of projects below, the lab is a small business supported by grant funding, much of which represents federal tax dollars brought home to Missouri. Like the other labs in the Center, we are an employer, a small business that keeps the economic engine of the city running. Current projects in the Kellogg lab include: Adaptation and morphological evolution in the tribe Andropogoneae. This project is supported by two NSF grants, one of which is producing genomes for as many members of the tribe as possible (see panandropogoneae.com), and the other of which is using those data to investigating evolution of floral and inflorescence structures. Evolution of grass abscission zones. We have discovered that the mechanisms controlling how seeds fall off the plant are surprisingly diverse. This poses mechanistic and evolutionary questions that we are pursuing in wild species and related crops.
With a natural inclination toward math and science in school, Don studied biochemistry at the University of British Columbia, eventually completing a PhD. Since 2018, Don has been the executive director of the Institute for International Crop Improvement (IICI) at the Danforth Center. He manages the IICI’s programs and partnerships dedicated to translating key discoveries in plant health, disease and pest management, genomics, advanced breeding and nutrition to new solutions for food quality and availability around the globe. Don’s team also provides guidance on navigating through the practical, safety, and regulatory processes necessary to demonstrate that new crop varieties are proven safe and effective for the farmers who will benefit from them. Don is an international expert in regulatory systems for agriculture, including environmental risk assessment, biosafety, and food safety assessments. His extensive experience in plant product development and global regulatory processes aligns with the Institute’s commitment to collaborate with international and local partner organizations to deliver crops with improved nutritional content and disease resistance to places where people are in most need. In addition to feeding the hungry, these efforts have the potential to contribute to environmental health and empower farmers to become more self-sufficient. Under Don’s leadership, the IICI is establishing public-private partnerships to address cross-cutting issues related to environmental and food safety assessment, quality standards, consensus-building, regulatory policy advocacy, and the practical implementation of stewardship best practices for new technologies.
Toni Kutchan serves a vice president for research and is the Oliver M. Langenberg Distinguished Investigator at the Danforth Center where she is investigating two aspects of natural products that are found in plants; how plants produce medicinal natural products at the enzyme and gene level, which could lead to new sources of medications for use against conditions such as dementia and cancer; and the use of plant natural products as components of biofuels. She is a leading expert in the molecules derived from the opium poppy, including the lifesaving opioid antidote medications. “Production of these drugs creates an industrial waste stream. It’s not good for the people working in the lab, and it creates a nasty waste pond. We have recently discovered a microorganism that can manufacture opiates in a cleaner, more sustainable way. Now we’re looking for industrial partners who can help us transform this lab work into an industry process.” As a recipient of federal research grants, the Danforth Center is prohibited from working on medical cannabis. However, Missouri recently legalized the production of industrial hemp, a crop which was king in Missouri in the late 1800s and which produces high-quality fiber useful in many products, such as textiles, rope, paper, and cosmetics. The Danforth Center and the Kutchan Lab are already forming partnerships. “With the cutting-edge technology and infrastructure at the Danforth Center, we can accelerate the breeding and help reestablish this useful cash crop in the state of Missouri. Hemp has been illegal for 100 years. We are now attempting to go from zero to introducing a modern crop.” Prior to joining the Center in 2006, she spent 20 years researching biochemistry at the University of Munich and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biology. In recognition of her scientific achievements, Toni was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2017 and the prestigious German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) in 2010. She received her doctorate in biochemistry from Saint Louis University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Toni credits training the next generation of scientists as a very rewarding part of her work at the Danforth Center and adds: “Training the up-and-coming generations is so important, making sure they have broad interests and perspective. Together, we can make the world a better place, safer, more sustainable. By unlocking the secrets of plants, we will make peoples’ lives better—and that’s a good feeling.”
Kirk is an internationally renowned expert in bioimaging with 30 years’ experience and over 100 publications. He is proud of his role in discovering a new imaging approach to follow subcellular calcium signaling in filamentous fungi—a world first. His research today focuses on small microbes that cause disease in both humans and plants. And he is dedicated to his role at the Danforth Center, partnering with numerous colleagues to help advance their research as well. In 2019, Kirk joined the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center as a principal investigator and director of the Advanced Bioimaging Laboratory Facility, to leverage advanced microscopy tools in plant science dedicated to producing more nutritious food and improving the environment. With over 30 years of advanced microscopy experience, Dr. Czymmek has expertise in most forms of light, X-ray, and electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, single-molecule imaging, superresolution microscopy, cryotechniques, and correlative microscopy. His work on developing and applying cutting-edge microscopy tools for imaging cells, tissues, and biomaterials has generated over 95 refereed publications. Prior to joining the Danforth Center, Kirk served as Vice President of Global ZEISS Microscopy Customer Centers and oversight of eight customer centers and their teams worldwide. He joined the company in 2012 to build a world-class application, demonstration, and training center for the ZEISS microscopy portfolio for North America. From 2000 to 2012 he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware (UD) where he worked to build an imaging capacity that led in 2001 to the creation of the UD Bio-Imaging Center at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, where he served as Director. Kirk received his doctorate in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Michigan State University in 1993 followed by a post-doctoral position at the DuPont Company in CR&D Plant Molecular Genetics group. Subsequently, he worked with Noran Instruments in the confocal business group as an applications scientist before joining the University of Delaware. He has received many awards and honors for his achievements in the field.