Seed World

University of Missouri and Danforth Center Strengthen Regional Research and Education


The University of Missouri (MU) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center announced that the Ohio State University professor R. Keith Slotkin, and Iowa State professor Bing Yang, have been appointed to joint faculty positions at MU and the Danforth Center. They are the second and third faculty hired through a collaborative initiative that aims to elevate regional plant science to address global challenges.

The new faculty members will have joint appointments and will hold tenure at MU. Slotkin started August 1 as associate member and principal investigator at the Danforth Center and as an associate professor in the MU Division of Biological Sciences. He will be housed at the Center’s Creve Coeur facilities. Yang’s appointment as professor, Division of Plant Sciences, and as a member and principal investigator at the Danforth Center starts on September 1. Yang will be housed on the MU campus.

R. Keith Slotkin has been appointed to a joint faculty position at MU and the Danforth Center.

“The addition of Keith Slotkin and Bing Yang accelerates our collaboration with MU,” says Jim Carrington, Danforth Center president. “They both fit seamlessly within the mission of both institutions and add vital strength in focus areas that have great relevance to agriculture and our region.”

Their arrival signals an expansion of the Center’s collaboration with the region’s leading universities, including Washington University and Saint Louis University. Blake Meyers was the first faculty member to be hired as part of a joint initiative with MU, announced in 2014, to attract accomplished scientists focused on cutting-edge plant science and agriculture innovation to both institutions. The new faculty strengthen regional plant and crop research and provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

“The appointments of Drs. Slotkin and Yang build on the tradition of excellence in plant biology research and education at MU,” says Bob Sharp, director of MU’s Interdisciplinary Plant Group and professor of plant sciences. “The IPG was established in 1981 and encourages interdisciplinary cooperation among 60 research teams engaged in plant biology research at MU.”

The Slotkin laboratory are up and coming leaders in the field of ‘epigenetics,’ where researchers aim to understand how plant cells determine which regions of their DNA should be active or repressed. They are committed to the idea that a deep understanding of how plants function on the cellular level will result in agricultural advances that enhance the environment, improve the lives of farmers and benefit consumers. Prior to joining the Danforth Center, R. Keith Slotkin served as an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at The Ohio State University.

“The Danforth Center is a truly dynamic atmosphere to further push my research. I am excited to combine and connect the strengths of the Danforth Center with the outstanding colleagues and breadth of MU,” Slotkin says.

“We are excited that the collaboration between the Danforth Center and MU continues to result in outstanding hires,” says John C. Walker, director of the MU Division of Biological Sciences. “Dr. Slotkin is an outstanding scientist, scholar, teacher and mentor who will add substantially to our joint venture for many decades to come.”

Yang’s research focuses on advanced biotechnologies that provide robust genetic and molecular tools to advance basic understanding of plant biology including plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Subsequently, such knowledge coupled with enabling technologies such as optimized genome editing systems in different plant species empowers the development of improved crops. He previously served as an associate professor in the department of genetics, development and cell biology, college of liberal art and sciences at Iowa State University.

“It is my great pleasure and honor to join the faculty of both MU and the Danforth Center. The joint faculty position opens an exciting opportunity to advance my research and broaden my collaboration among great scientists in two institutions and beyond,” Yang says.

“We are very happy to welcome Dr. Yang to the highly collaborative community of plant scientists in the Division of Plant Sciences and across the MU campus,” says Jim English, director of the division. “His expertise in plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses will add to the already deep field of researchers here at MU and at the Danforth Center. We look forward to having him join our faculty as a researcher and scholar.”