Brodersen Receives Generous Gift to Support Research on How We Build More Resilient Plants

Craig Brodersen and a YSE student in the lab preparing a white pine branch for weighing

Craig Brodersen (left) works with YSE students at the laboratory at Yale Myers Forest.

Craig Brodersen, associate professor of plant physiological ecology at Yale School of the Environment (YSE), has received a $2.5 million gift from The Howard and Maryam Newman Family Plant Research Fund, which will support his innovative research and collaborative work on the coordination between plant anatomy and physiology.
The fund was generously established by Yale College graduate Howard Newman and his wife, Maryam; Howard is founder and managing partner at private equity firm Pine Brook and has served in several roles at Yale, including currently on the Climate & Energy Institute Advisory Board.
“This generous gift will allow us to greatly accelerate our progress in understanding how to build more resilient plants, at a moment when drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere is of the utmost importance, and plants are going to be one of our greatest allies in achieving those goals,” said Brodersen.
The funding from Howard and Maryam Newman will support Brodersen’s own research and his collaborative work with the Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative, a pioneering research effort seeking to optimize plants’ ability to absorb and store carbon to fight climate change. The collaboration between YSE and Salk will focus on two major research areas: how distribution patterns of suberin production and deposition affect root growth, carbon storage in sequestering tissues, and drought tolerance; and how cellular architecture and biochemistry in leaves can be optimized to improve photosynthetic performance.
Brodersen says this collaboration builds on more than a decade of work developing novel methods for studying the internal organization of plant cells. With new tools in place, he adds, “we’re able to leverage the existing expertise at the Salk Institute in a very applied way” to improve COabsorption and, in turn, strategically redesign root systems to store COmore effectively.
The research collaboration will begin this year and will continue for an estimated five years. The fund will also support four postdoctoral researchers and a technician for the duration of the research.
Brodersen, who joined the YSE faculty in 2014, focuses his research on the structure and function of plants, using cutting-edge technology such as 3-D imaging to better understand and visualize the inner workings of plants and trees. He has particular interest in how plants efficiently utilize water and light, highlighting the implications of dysfunction that occurs outside of those optimum conditions, and how plants have adapted to repair or prevent that loss of functionality.

– Josh Anusewicz