Marta Laskowski

  • Robert S. Danforth Professor of Biology

Areas of Study


  • BS, Indiana University Bloomington, 1983
  • PhD, Stanford University, 1990


I am always eager to talk to students about research. For those interested in a semester-long project, BIOL 305 offers the opportunity to carry out real research in a supportive, collaborative setting. For those interested in a longer commitment, I am happy to discuss our year-long honors program.

Plant growth and development

Plants aren’t always slow! Bunchberry flowers propel their pollen into the air in less than half a millisecond.  Discover:

I study the process by which new lateral roots form. The plant hormone auxin stimulates expansion and division in a single cell that eventually forms all of the structures and organization found in the main root. These events begin deep inside the tissues of the parent root. How then does the new root move through those tissues to reach the soil? Cell-to-cell cohesion is critical to life, yet this is a situation in which cell separation must occur. The mechanisms that lead to lateral root emergence have been debated for more than 100 years without resolution. Today, we use the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, its mutants, and cutting-edge molecular tools to answer this question. I hypothesize that enzymes that degrade pectin (the substance which makes jams jell ) help plants control cell separation during the formation of new roots. We are using molecular genetic tools to understand the expression and regulation of these enzymes and the genes that code for them.

Ten Tusscher, KH, Laskowski, M (2017) Periodic lateral root priming, what makes it tick. Plant Cell. 29, 432-444.

Dubrovsky JG, Laskowski, M (2017). Root development: Lateral root initiation. In: Murray, B.G. Encyclopedia of Applied Plant Sciences. Oxford. Academic Press. pg 256-264

Scheres, B., Laskowski, M. (2016) Root patterning: it takes two to tangle. J Exp. Bot. 67(5) 1201-1203.

Hofhuis1 H, Laskowski1 M, Du1 Y, Prasad K, Grigg S, Pinon V, Scheres B. (2013) Phyllotaxis and Rhizotaxis in Arabidopsis Are Modified by Three PLETHORA Transcription Factors. Curr Biol. 23: 956-62.  1These authors contributed equally to this work.

Laskowski, M. (2013) Lateral root initiation is a probabilistic event whose frequency is set by fluctuating levels of auxin response.  J Exp Bot. 64:2609-17.

Spring 2022

Organismal Biology — BIOL 100

Fall 2022

Feeding the World — FYSP 165
Plant Biology — BIOL 321