Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, Biology (2017)

B.S., University of New Mexico, Biology (2011)

Research Interests

Plants and other photosynthetic organisms are fundamental to life on Earth. They provide us with food, fuel, fiber, building materials, and medicine. They created the atmosphere that allowed multicellular life to exist.

Research in my lab focuses on understanding natural variations in how plants respond to changes in their environment. While plants have evolved to cope with changes in their environment, that adaptability has not necessarily been preserved as crops were developed from wild species. My research compares crop plants and their wild relatives to identify traits that may allow crop plants to adapt to unfavorable climate conditions and also to help identify crop varieties that may be grown on marginal lands that aren’t ideally suited for agriculture.

My lab studies how photosynthesis varies in different plants in response to environmental cues. Photosynthesis consists of two major processes: (1) The capture of light energy and (2) using that energy to convert CO2 from the atmosphere into sugars to be used as building blocks for other molecules in the plant. The efficiency at which plants maintain these processes varies widely by species and is also affected by environmental influences, including drought, temperature extremes, and soil salinity. I am primarily interested in investigating physiological parameters, using a variety of approaches such as: gas exchange, variable chlorophyll fluorescence, stable carbon isotope ratios, and leaf anatomical phenotyping.

Courses taught

BIOL-213: Plant Form, Function, and Diversity - Plants are one of the most successful and abundant groups of organisms on earth, comprising the majority of terrestrial biomass, being integral to ecosystem structure, and providing humans with food, shelter, and materials. Yet plants face extraordinary challenges given their relative immobility and, in response, have evolved a surprising suite of behaviors and morphologies. Plants can tolerate extreme abiotic environments, manipulate animals for services (protection, pollination, dispersal), and travel to the far corners of the planet. In this course, we will explore the range of plant diversity, form and function. This will include an introduction to basic principles of plant function including physical processes occurring in plants, water relations in whole plants and plant tissues, cell physiology and biochemistry, and growth and development. In the laboratory, students will explore plant diversity and anatomy, as well as conduct genetic, biochemical, and physiological studies. The course includes three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week.

BIOL-250: According to Science - Scientific Communication and Literacy in Biology - We’ve all seen the headlines claiming that scientists have proven everything from coffee consumption increasing your lifespan, sugar being as addictive as cocaine, and Alzheimer’s being caused by lack of sleep. In this course we will review media coverage of scientific findings and contrast that coverage with the primary literature upon which the articles or documentaries were based. Students will publish to a course blog and meet several guest speakers who integrate science communication into their careers.

BIOL-181: Adaptation & the Organism

BIOL-191 Molecules, Genes and Cells 

Special Topics: 290/290H or 490/490H.  I am happy to talk with you about your ideas for Special Topics readings or research credits or sponsor students to undertake a research project in my laboratory.  Full or half (H) course credit options are available.


P. HsuY. TakahashiS. MunemasaE. MeriloK. LaanemetsR. WaadtD. PaterH. Kollist, J. I. Schroeder. "Abscisic acid-independent stomatal CO2 signal transduction pathway and convergence of CO2 and ABA signaling downstream of OST1 kinase." PNAS, October 2018.

D. Pater, J. Mullen, J. McKay, J. I. Schroeder. “Examining Natural Variation in Water Use Efficiency Traits in Diverse Accessions of Brassica napus L.” Plant and Cell Physiology, August 2017.

M. Zhu, J. G. Monroe, Y. Suhail, F. Villiers, J. Mullen, D. Pater, F. Hauser, B. Jeon, J. Bader, J. Kwak, J. I. Schroeder, J. McKay, S. Assmann. “Molecular and Systems Approaches towards Drought-tolerant Canola Crops.” New Phytologist, February 2016.

D. Sutimantanapi, D. Pater, L. Smith. “Divergent roles for maize PAN1 and PAN2 receptor-like proteins in cytokinesis and cell morphogenesis.” Plant Physiology, Vol. 164, April 2014, p. 1905-1917.

M. Heckwolf, D. Pater, D.T. Hanson, R. Kaldenhoff. “The Arabidopsis aquaporin At PIP1;2 is a physiologically relevant CO2 transport facilitator.” The Plant Journal, Vol. 67, September 2011, p. 795-804.