Principle Investigator

Sheng Yang He, Ph.D.

Sheng Yang He
University Distinguished Professor, HHMI/GBMF Investigator

I am broadly interested in biological processes that mediate the molecular interplay between plants and microbes. In the past two decades, I led an interactive group of postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in exploring novel phenomena in bacterial pathogenesis and disease susceptibility in plants. In addition, I teach graduate classes on plant and microbial biology and contribute to the large scientific community through serving on a variety of committees.

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Lab Manager 

Gaëlle Cassin-Ross, Ph.D.

Gaelle Cassin-Ross
Lab Manager

curriculum vitae


Caitlin Thireault, M.S.

Caitlin Thireault

curriculum vitae
Innate immune responses offer protection against a broad-range of microorganisms and potential pathogens. I am interested in dissecting plant innate immunity to identify novel contributing factors in host susceptibility to refine our current understanding of plant-microbe interactions.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Alex Brutus, Ph.D.
Alex Brutus
Postdoctoral Researcher

With great sadness we say good bye to our friend and colleague, Dr. Alex Brutus, who passed away December 31, 2017 after a long and courageous battle with the incurable disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Alex was an inspiring scientist, a genuine friend, and a caring husband and father. Alex’s boundless passion for science and creativity will always be a part of the He lab.  Although Alex’s illness hampered completion of his postdoctoral research, he was an important contributor to several projects, including the following published works:

Broad-spectrum defense against plant pathogens. Brutus A, and He SY. Nat Biotechnol. 2010

A genetic screen reveals Arabidopsis stomatal and/or apoplastic defenses against Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000. Zeng W, Brutus A, Kremer JM, Withers JC, Gao X, Jones AD, He SY. PLoS Pathog. 2011

A bacterial tyrosine phosphatase inhibits plant pattern recognition receptor activation. Macho AP, Schwessinger B, Ntoukakis V, Brutus A, Segonzac C, Roy S, Kadota Y, Oh MH, Sklenar J, Derbyshire P, Lozano-Durán R, Malinovsky FG, Monaghan J, Menke FL, Huber SC, He SY, Zipfel C. Science. 2014

Danve Castroverde, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

My primary research interest is molecular plant-pathogen interactions because of the remarkable interplay between two organisms and various factors. I joined the He Lab to examine and dissect how elevated temperature as an abiotic/environmental stress influences the plant defense signalling network.

YuTi Cheng, Ph.D.

YuTi Cheng
Postdoctoral Researcher

curriculum vitae
Using a reverse genetics approach, I study the function of Arabidopsis genes whose expression are affected by the bacterial elicitor flg22, the bacterial toxin coronatine, and/or the salicylic acid analog BTH.

Richard Hilleary, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher
I am generally interested in signal transduction processes that allow plants and other organisms to perceive changes in their environment. My research focuses on elucidating the molecular species regulating the generation and maintenance of calcium signals during plant-pathogen interactions and how abiotic factors can influence this process on the cellular and molecular level.

Bethany Huot, Ph.D.

Bethany Huot
Postdoctoral Researcher

curriculum vitae
Building on the foundation of The Pub Club, I am applying a Community of Minds approach to my research exploring the leaf endobiome of taxonomically diverse plants growing in multiple natural habitats. In collaboration with biology faculty at Calvin College, the Biological Investigations of Multi-Level Ecosystems (BIOME) project engages undergraduate students in authentic research as a framework for learning concepts in ecological, evolutionary, cellular and genetic systems. Learn more here.

Kinya Nomura, Ph.D.

Kinya Nomura Postdoctoral Researcher

curriculum vitae
I am working on Pseudomonas syringae Type-III effectors which suppress plant immunity during infection.

Reza Sohrabi, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

My research focuses on studying plant-microbiota-environment interactions under biotic and abiotic stresses. Using a gnotobiotic plant growth setup, I am studying mechanisms of microbiota functions in enhancing plant health and growth and evaluating the roles of small molecules from defined microbial communities in mediating host processes.

André Velásquez, Ph.D.

Andre Velasquez
Postdoctoral Researcher

curriculum vitae
My research is currently focused on understanding the mechanisms by which PAMP-triggered immunity is able to prevent pathogen establishment and growth. I am also investigating the variability of resistance to Pseudomonas syringae encountered in different natural accessions of Arabidopsis. Finally, a third project in which I am involved focuses into engineering new resistance pathways in plants.

Li Zhang, M.S., Ph.D.

Li Zhang
Postdoctoral Researcher

curriculum vitae
The overall goal of my thesis research is to understand how the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae infects plants. The first project of my thesis research is aimed at engineering jasmonate receptor mutants that have reduced sensitivity to coronatine, but preserve responsiveness to endogenous jasmonate. The second project of my thesis is to clone Arabidopsis genes that, when mutated, restore the virulence of coronatine-deficient mutants of P. syringae bacteria.

Graduate Students

Brad Paasch

Brad Paasch
Ph.D. Student

curriculum vitae

My research focuses on unraveling the molecular mechanisms in which a plant microbiome influences host processes. The role of a microbiome on plant development and innate immunity are of particular interest to my research.

Adam Seroka

Ph.D. Student

My research focuses on the interaction between Pseudomonas syringae  pv. tomato DC3000 and Arabidopsis thaliana and how local infection and  activation of defense systemically disrupts plant growth and movements. By studying the interconnected nature between plant  pathogens, defense, and development, we can gain a broader insight  into the molecular mechanisms that regulate plant behavior.


Franchesca Dion -

Matt Jozefaciuk -
Jennifer Lee -

Trevor Ulrich -

Jessica Wood -

Visiting Scholars

 Dr. Tao Chen
 Dr. Yanjuan Jiang
 Dr. Jong Hum Kim
  Dr. Li (Mary) Ma

Social Events

Happy Halloween from the He Lab! (2018)

Enjoying the fall colors in Baker Woodlot at MSU (October 2018)

First and Second place winners of the first annual He Lab Games at the 2018 He Lab Retreat

Lab Lunch during ICAR in St. Louis (2017)

Spartans Will pose (2017)

The He Lab annual retreat up north to the beautiful Au Sable River for boating, games, fishing, relaxation, and of course, riveting scientific discussions (2014)

Playing some music at Sheng Yang's house (2012)

Lab ski trip to Crystal Mountain (2013)

Another photo from the annual lab retreat (2014)