Research Overview

We are interested in determining how phenotypic variation is driven by natural and spontaneous epigenetic variation. The laboratory focuses on two major research themes.

1) We are interested in the molecular basis and function of spontaneous epialleles. Systematically identifying these epialleles using epigenomic approaches, understanding their patterns of heritability, their interaction with genetic variants and their specific roles in controlling gene expression is necessary for a comprehensive understanding of genome evolution and its effect on phenotypic variation.

2) We aim to identify the cis-regulatory sequences important for phenotypic variation. We use a combination of epigenomics and molecular genetic approaches to identify and functionally test candidate cis-regulatory regions important for crop improvement and natural phenotypic variation. 


The term "epigenetic" was originally defined to convey how an organism of a single genotype can develop from undifferentiated cells: essentially defining a developmental program. This definition requires that gene expression states are heritable through mitotic cell divisions, but there is growing interest in understanding how gene expression states are heritable through meiotic cell divisions. We are using epigenetic approaches to profile diverse plant populations that have been collected over generational time to identify epialleles and to understand mechanisms important for stable transmission of these epiallelic states.


Epigenomics describes the use of genome-wide assays to describe biochemical activities associated with certain regions of the genome. These assays include the measurement of transcript abundance, DNA methylation or chromatin modification states and chromatin structure as well as many more features of the genome. Developing assays to reveal new activities associated with the genome are important determinants of predicting the output of sequences on phenotypic variation. 

News & Updates

Callan Russell is the recipient of the 2020 Cynthia Kenyon Award!

May 5, 2020

Congratulations to Callan for winning the 2020 Cynthia Kenyon Award, given to one outstanding graduating UGA senior majoring in Genetics. Callan is heading to Stanford as a Knight-Hennessey Scholar. Well done!

Sohyun Bang wins 2019 UGA Capturing Science Contest!

January 28, 2020

Sohyun Bang and Michael Francis won second place for their DNA signification entry Music of Life in the 2019 UGA Capturing Science Contest! Congratulations!

Madge Stuhlreyer is a CURO fellow!

December 20, 2019

Congratulations to Madge for being awarded a Spring 2020 CURO Research Assistantship! Way to go!

Sarah Saddoris is a Goldwater Scholar

May 06, 2019

Sarah Saddoris was awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Keep up the fantastic scholarly and research activity.

Faheem is a CURO fellow!

May 06, 2019

Congratulations to Faheem for being awarded a Summer CURO Research Assistantship!

NSF GRFP awards

April 10, 2019

Congratulations to former undergraduates Patrick Griffin who was awarded an NSF-GRFP and Kitra Cates who received an honorable mention.