DellaPenna Lab Members

Laboratory Manager
Maria Magallanes-Lundback pic

Maria Magallanes-Lundback
Maria obtained a Masters of Science from the Monterrey Tech Institute in Monterrey, Mexico. She is currently a Research Assistant III and manager for the DellaPenna lab and responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the lab. Maria joined the DellaPenna lab in 1997 when Dr. DellaPenna was at the University of Nevada in Reno, NV. She has worked on a variety of projects in the lab and currently is focusing on high throughput HPLC based carotenoid and tocochromanol analytics as part of an NSF funded Plant Genome grant to Elucidate the Genetic Architecture of Provitamin A and Vitamin E Biosynthesis in seed
( The data produced provides the core of information needed to understand the genetic architecture of natural variation for maize and Arabidopsis seed analytes. Maria is also involved in the Medicinal Plant Genomics project in Agrobacterium mediated transformation of select medicinal plants.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Vonny Salim pic

Vonny Salim Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
The availability of medicinal plant genome sequence databases have accelerated the discovery of genes involved in the biosynthesis of various natural products. A recent collaborative Medicinal Plant Genomics Resource project has included Camptotheca acuminata that produces anticancer agent, camptothecin, as one of medicinal plants with high pharmaceutical value. In order to improve the manufacture of these valuable compounds, metabolic engineering efforts such as reconstitution of the entire plant biosynthetic pathway in microorganisms for large-scale production have been pursued.  Nevertheless, this approach requires identification of more biosynthetic genes to complete the target pathway. My research goal is to functionally characterize plant biosynthetic enzymes involved in camptothecin biosynthesis pathway, and to reveal each step of reactions and the mechanisms in the assembly of these useful molecules in plants.

SungSoo Kim pic

SungSoo Kim Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
Although thousands of nonpolar metabolites generated in plastids are transferred to extraplastidic compartments such as the ER, where they are further modified, the mechanisms regulating this transportation are poorly understood. The DellaPenna lab has recently shown that enzymes localized to the plastid are able to access substrate pools in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and vice versa, in what has been called 'transorganellar complementation'. I would like to expand upon my research experience by further developing my knowledge of biochemical and molecular approaches focusing primarily on enzymes that possess this ability to metabolically interact in plants.

Research Technicians

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Nick Deason 
Nick graduated from the MSU BMB program in Spring of 2015. Nick has been in our lab for a couple of years as an undergraduate assisting with various molecular biology techniques and was involved in the amino acid metabolism project. Currently he is assisting in the growing of large Arabidopsis populations for high throughput HPLC, LCMS based carotene, tocochromanols, B vitamins and amino acid analytics.

Graduate Students

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Casey Johnny
My interest in science began as an undergraduate assistant studying oil biosynthesis in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. This interest subsequently led me to join the DellaPenna lab to pursue a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology. I am employing various molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry techniques to probe the fundamental question of non-polar metabolite transport between subcellular compartments and the mechanism(s) underlying the process in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. A comprehensive understanding on this process can be further applied across the spectrum of plant metabolic engineering for crop improvement.