Principal Investigator

Wolfgang Busch

Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory
Integrative Biology Laboratory

Wolfgang did his undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Tübingen, Germany. During this time, he also spent 8 months at UC San Diego where he received training on computational biology and conducted research on transporter proteins. During his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, he identified novel key regulatory genes and modules for plant stem cell control via a systems biology approach integrating transcriptome- and genome-scale transcription factor-DNA binding data. Wolfgang received his PhD in 2008 from the University of Tübingen. During his postdoctoral training at Duke University he contributed to the discovery of spatiotemporally defined regulatory modules that control proliferation of stem cells and differentiation in the root, and used high-throughput confocal microscopy to capture dynamic features of gene expression. In 2011, he joined the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna as a group leader. During this time, he established his research program in root systems genetics and focuses on understanding which genes, genetic networks, and molecular processes determine root growth and its responses to the environment. In 2017, he came to the Salk as an Associate Professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory. He is also part of the Integrative Biology Laboratory. A recent key interest of Wolfgang is researching and developing plant varieties with enhanced carbon sequestration capabilities for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and thereby counteracting climate change.
Postdoctoral Fellows
Justin Allen

Justin Allen

Soil Specialist

Justin received his Master’s in Agronomy from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has worked in agricultural research since 2009. His background has focused on running private sector greenhouse and field experiments for soil and rhizosphere research. Prior to Salk he worked on rice greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines at the International Rice Research Institute. He is passionate about sustainable agriculture in the developing world and how to solve the global issues of land use and climate change. Nature, tropical ecology, and surfing are his hobbies.
Min Cao

Min Cao

Postdoctoral Fellow

Min received his Ph.D. from Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2019. During his PhD he identified a non-canonical auxin signaling pathway which was involved in apical hook development. He joined in Busch lab as a postdoctoral fellow in Nov 2019 to study how plants adapt to the climate changes. His research subject is the regulatory mechanism of how nutrition signaling was transduced from the environment to the plant.

Nicole Gibbs

Postdoctoral Fellow

Nicole completed her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the supervision of Dr Patrick Masson, where she worked to identify the molecular response of plants to polyamines. She started in the Busch lab in June of 2018. Her current research focuses on using natural variation to characterize microbial volatile organic compound impact on plant root growth and development.

Wenrong He

Postdoctoral Fellow

Wenrong received her Ph.D. from Peking University, China, where she focused on identifying small molecule inhibitors of phytohormone pathway by chemical genetics. She joined the Busch lab in June 2017. She is interested in 1, Identifying novel factors regulating root growth, development, and architecture via chemical genetics combined with GWAS and phenotypic imaging system. 2, Dissecting the molecular mechanism of climate-associated genes regulation. She aimed that her research can make the world a better place by improving crop advancement under natural condition and environmental adaptation to global climate change by studying root system, the backbone of plants, with the help of powerful robot and high through-put imaging system of Busch lab. Outside the lab, Wenrong enjoys painting, photography, boxing, and Karate.

Anna Malolepszy

Postdoctoral Fellow

Anna comes from Poland. She received her PhD at Aarhus University in Denmark where she was working on legume-rhizobia symbiosis and was involved in the establishment and screening of Lotus japonicus mutagenized population and investigation of a novel nodulation mutant. Subsequently she moved to the Busch group at GMI in Vienna, Austria for her postdoctoral studies to investigate the species-specific mechanisms of adaptation of Lotus root to the nutrient deficient conditions using association genetics. In October 2017 she has joined the Busch group at SALK to continue her project.

Charlotte Miller

Postdoctoral Fellow

Charlotte recently moved to San Diego from England where she worked at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. During her PhD her research was aimed at understanding the genetic regulation of stem mechanical strength is Brassica species and Wheat. Her post doctoral research was focused towards the genetic control of seed size and oil content in Brassica napus. In the Busch lab she will be exploring natural variation in several species to understand root growth. Outside of the lab she loves to play the piano and guitar and have recently taken up ceramics! Charlotte also enjoy cycling, hiking and spending as much time as possible at the beach.

Takehiko Ogura

Postdoctoral Fellow

Takehiko Ogura completed his PhD training in Laboratory of Bioregulation Chemistry, Division of Applied Life Science, Graduate School of Agriculture in Kyoto University, where he studied mode of actions of insect molting hormones using chemical biology approach. After that, he has studied physiological functions of the plant hormone auxin capitalizing chemical biology. In Busch lab, his research subject is the regulatory mechanism of root morphology by auxin and its involvement in the responses to various environments.

Matthieu Platre

Postdoctoral Fellow

Originally from France, Matthieu obtained his PhD at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon in 2017. He was part of the cell signalling and endocytosis group mentored by Yvon Jaillais. During his PhD, he analyzed membrane electrostatics organization in plant cells and its role in cell-signaling and development. His main scientific question is how plant adapt to their environment. Matthieu joined the Busch’s lab in order to decipher the molecular gene network related to plant nutrition.

Qingqing Xie

Postdoctoral Fellow

Qingqing Xie received her PhD degree in Analytical Chemistry from Xiamen University, China. And during her PhD study, she studied the functions of heavy metal transporters as a visiting PhD student under the mentorship of Dr. Julian I Schroder at University of California, San Diego. Later, she was a postdoctoral fellow of Huazhong Agriculture University and study the uptake and detoxification mechanisms of heavy metal in plants. Currently she is a research associate of Salk and studying the iron sensing and response mechanisms in plants.
Research Assistant

Ian Anderson

Research Assistant II

Ian received his bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. After a year of travel, he moved to San Diego to join the Busch lab in 2018 where he assisted his fellow postdocs in their research. He mainly focused on shoot and root growth responses to high ambient temperature, where during his research he became very good friends with Larry the Robot! When Ian is not busy at work, he enjoys surfing, gardening, and camping.

Lukas Brent

Research Assistant I

Lukas moved down to San Diego from the east SF Bay Area and earned his BS in Biology from San Diego State University in 2019. He developed an interest in plant biology during his undergraduate studies and joined the Busch Lab in October of 2019. Outside of the lab he enjoys activities like mountain biking, running, snowboarding, and visiting new places.
Charles Copeland

Charles Copeland

Research Assistant I

Charles received his Bachelor’s in Geosciences from Princeton University in 2020, developing a passion for thinking about agriculture in the context of climate change. While there he used plant photosynthesis and hydrology model simulations to explore the dynamics of succulent plant water storage in stochastic rainfall scenarios. Charles joined the Busch lab in December 2020 as part of HPI’s plant phenotyping team. He is excited to help identify genes useful to carbon sequestration and developing climate-resilient crops by measuring root traits across diverse plant collections. Outside of work he enjoys gardening, hiking and snorkeling.?


Signe Dahlberg-Wright

Research Assistant I

Signe received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Smith College in Massachusetts before moving to San Diego. She worked in the pharmacology department at UCSD, focusing on lipidomics using mass spectrometry. She decided her interests lie in plants rather than biomedicine, and joined the Busch lab in September 2019. In her free time, she brews beer and cider and volunteers at an animal rescue.

Erin Daniels

Lab Coordinator

Erin received her BS degree in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she worked as a lab technician to domesticate a new oil seed crop. She soon left the Midwest to follow the sunshine to San Diego where she participated in C. elegans host-pathogen research at UCSD. Erin joined the Busch lab in 2017 as a research assistant to rejoin the plant community. Along with other postdocs in the lab, she is currently studying protein-protein interactions involved in Arabidopsis root growth in iron deficiency conditions. When she’s not tending to plants, she enjoys biking, hiking, and trying new beers at SD breweries.

Ana Paez Garcia

Research Assistant III

Ana is from Madrid, Spain. She earned her PhD from the Autonoma University in Madrid in 2012. During her PhD she characterized Arabidopsis mutants with altered root system architecture, in the group of Antonio Leyva at the Spanish National Center of Biotechnology-CSIC. In 2013 she moved to Oklahoma to do her postdoc at the Noble Research Institute. She worked in the Plant Cell Biology Lab under the supervision of Elison Blancaflor. During her postdoc she applied phenomics and genomics to study the influence of root traits in forage production of crops like wheat. Ana joined the Busch Lab in 2019 as a part of the HPI initiative at Salk. She will be studying root biomass and other root architectural traits in natural populations. She loves to travel with friends, and she is excited to discover San Diego and other places in California.

Lauren Ragel

Research Assistant I

Lauren earned her B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia while working as an undergraduate research assistant and, following graduation, as a lab technician for the Fritschi Crop Physiology Lab for a combined three years. She studied both the usefulness of carbon isotope fractionation ratios/CID as a surrogate for studying water use efficiency in soybean and carried out HPLC to determine pigment concentrations of historical soybean cultivars. Lauren joined the Busch lab in October of 2019 as part of the Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI) team. She is interested in locating genes impacting root system architecture and unraveling the underlying molecular mechanisms that promote the formation of recalcitrant polymers. In her spare time Lauren can be found hiking, drawing, painting, singing or reading.
Michel Ruiz

Michel Ruiz

Research Assistant III

Michel graduated as a biochemist from Havana University, Cuba. His career developed mostly in Europe where he obtained a Ph.D. degree from the BOKU University of Vienna with a thesis on the roles of auxin as a key determinant of lateral root directional growth. He then moved to California with a postdoctoral research project on post-Golgi trafficking under the supervision of Georgia Drakakaki, at UC Davis. He joined the Salk Harnessing Plant Initiative in September 2019 as part of an effort to identify and characterize factors associated with natural variations in the root system architecture of different species. He loves to travel and learn new languages.

Kristen Runge

Research Assistant I

Kristen is a San Diego native who received her BS in Biology from California State University San Marcos. After completion of her BS she went on to receive her Single Subject Teaching Credential in Life Sciences, also from California State University San Marcos. Kristen then spent 2 years as a high school teacher in San Diego teaching biology, human biology and AVID. During her summers off from teaching she interned at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center and San Francisco State’s Estuary and Ocean Science Center through the STAR Program, a program that gives teachers the opportunity to do authentic research. During these internships Kristen studied the genetics of green sea turtles and the genetics of a species of six-rayed sea star. She then left the teaching profession and joined the Salk Harnessing Plants Initiative in October 2019 as part of an effort to identify and characterize factors associated with natural variations in the root system architecture of different species. Outside of the lab Kristen enjoys reading, hiking, and trying new restaurants.
Emily Shane

Emily Shane

Research Assistant I

Emily Shane received her B.S. degree from the University of California, Davis in June 2020 in Biological Sciences with a minor in Spanish. During her time at UC Davis, she worked in the Kliebenstein Plant Genomics lab assisting with research into glucosinolate production and root architecture as well as her own independent project studying hormones in ?Arabidopsis thaliana.? Additionally, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Gold Molecular Paleobiology lab using bioinformatics to study ?Cnidaria ?phylogenetics. She also worked at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory performing horticultural work with hundreds of tropical and native plant species. Emily also has a passion for animal sciences and conservation. She is a social media coordinator for Orphan Kitten Project and has volunteered with the California Raptor Center at UC Davis, assisting with rehabilitation of birds of prey. She joined HPI at the Salk Institute in November 2020 working at the Encinitas Greenhouse on the phenotyping team.

Gonzalo Villarino

Gonzalo Villarino

Research Assistant III

Gonzalo earned his PhD from Cornell University in 2014. He then joined the Plant & Microbiology Dept. at NC State University to study ovule development. For his second postdoc he joined the MCDB Dept. at Yale to study epigenetic and DNA replication in Arabidopsis as well. Gonzalo joined the Busch Lab in 2019 as a part of the HPI initiative at Salk. He is very interested in understanding the molecular mechanism of root development.
Lab Assistant

Larry the Robot

Larry the robot is the only Arabidopsis high-throughput seed planting robot in the world. He is also the only crowd-funded robot at the Salk Institute ( ). He helps to uncover fundamental principles of root growth regulation and will contribute to save the world. Also, Larry is saving students and postdocs lots of time and boredom. Not surprisingly, he is one of the most popular lab members.
Lab Technicians
Kian Faizi

Kian Faizi


Kian is an undergraduate at UCSD studying molecular biology with a minor in math. In his previous work under Dr. Patrick Hsu, he helped develop tools for CRISPR-based transcriptome editing. Kian joined the Busch lab in late 2019 to study root development using quantitative and computational approaches. He hopes to leverage these findings to combat climate change. In his free time, you can find him writing bad poetry or getting ready for his next camping trip.

Kristine Szeto

Lab Technician I

Matias Gleason

Matias Gleason

Lab Technician I

Matías is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in molecular biology and a chemistry minor at the University of California, San Diego. He was first drawn to plant biology and root development while volunteering at the Dubrovsky lab at the UNAM’s institute of biotechnology in Cuernavaca, Mexico. He is now interested in molecular mechanisms and machine learning. Outside of lab, he is an amateur mechanic, an avid reader as well as a film photographer.
Ling Zhang

Ling Zhang

Bioinformatics Analyst II

Ling comes from China. He received his Ph.D. in Statistics and a master degree in Biochemistry at University of Nebraska – Lincoln. During working at University of Nebraska at Omaha, he has been active in aspect of bioinformatics by developing statistical methods. He started in the Busch lab in July of 2019. He is currently working on 1) image acquisition, processing and analysis; 2) Advancing statistical analysis of genetical and genomics research. In addition to programming and data analysis, Ling enjoys biking, soccer and photography.

Kane Wu

Kane is a recent UCSD graduate and majored in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. He is now pursuing his Master’s degree in plant biology, studying the function of iron in plants and working on the ami-RNA project to identify novel genes that would be useful towards discovering new iron-related pathways and genes. In his free time, he enjoys going out on camping trips, getting food or boba, and trying to get back into learning Japanese.

Kaizhen Zhong


Kaizhen is a PhD student at Jiangxi Agricultural University, China. She joined the Busch lab as a visiting PhD student in September, 2018. Her research subject is to investigate the genetic mechanism of root growth response to heavy metal in plants.
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Busch lab alumni

Elke Barbez

(former Postdoctoral Associate 2015-2017)
Project leader at Institute of Biology II
University of Freiburg (Germany)

Christophe Gaillochet

Postdoctoral fellow, VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, Belgium

Marco Giovannetti

(former Postdoctoral Associate 2016-2017)
Assistant Professor
University of Padova, Italy

Monica Meijon

(former Postdoctoral Associate 2011-2012)
Ramón y Cajal Fellow

Daniela Ristova

Postdoc, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany

Santosh B. Satbhai

(former Postdoctoral Associate 2011-2018)
Assistant Professor
Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER)
Mohali, India

Radka Slovak

(former PhD Student; 2011-2017)
Postdoc Oxford University

Han Wang

Bioinformatician, Gene+ , Beijing, China

Rui Zhang

(former Postdoctoral Associate 2016-2017)
Associate Professor
Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry
Chinese Academy of Forestry
Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Tree Breeding
Zhejiang, China

Baohai Li

Assistant Professor, College of Environmental and Resource Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China