The Hirsch Lab conducts research in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota on plant stress resistance biology. The interests of the lab include using enabling technologies to understand genomic and expression variation within species and associating this variation with precision phenotyping to understand abiotic and biotic stress response in plants.

Current Projects


Understanding the role of transposable elements in maize abiotic stress responsmaize development gif smalle

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

1/16 - 12/18 | PI: Nathan M. Springer | CoPI: Cory D. Hirsch | Award#: 2016-67013-24747

Abiotic stress, such as extreme temperatures or drought, severely limit agricultural productivity. We haveevidence that certain families of transposons can confer stress responsive expression patterns to nearby genes in maize. The first aim of this project is to define the role of transposons in gene expression responses to abiotic stress in several different tissues and genotypes. The focus of the second aim is to determining the mechanism by which transposons influence the stress-responsive expression of nearby genes. The third aim of this project will document natural variation for insertion sites of the transposons that confer stress-responsive gene expression and will attempt to identify protocols to mobilize these elements to generate novel allelic diversity in maize. The proposed research would provide novel understanding of the molecular processes that underlie gene expression responses to abiotic stress.



Identification of gene networks to understand stem rust susceptibility in wheat

University of Minnesota Microbial and Plant Genome Institute

5/16 - 4/17 | PI: Melania Figueroa | CoPI: Cory D. Hirsch, Chad Myers

This project will explore a new area of stem rust disease research and increase our understanding of how susceptibility is dictated when plants are infected by the stem rust pathogen. We are working towards understanding what makes a wheat plant susceptible and to then improve disease resistance by rewiring plant responses to rust pathogens. The overall goal of this research is to provide alternative methods to provide durable disease resistance and increase crop improvement and yield stability.

Past Projects


A systems biology approach to understanding anthocyanin biosynthesis and regulation in potato

National Science Foundation National Plant Genome Initiative Postdoctoral Research Fellowship In Biology

8/12 - 7/15 | PI: Cory D. Hirsch | Award#: 1202724

Anthocyanins, the purple and red pigments found in plants, have numerous health benefits including a high anti-oxidant content with human health benefits. The scientific goal of the research was to investigate anthocyanin production at the genetic, biochemical, molecular, and systems level in potato, a crop species that is emerging as an important component of the 21st century world food needs. This project coupled classical plant breeding approaches with modern technology enabled genome-wide approaches to generate and integrate multiple data types to provide a genome-scale understanding of the mechanisms by which genes govern anthocyanin production in potato. 

anthocyaninsTraining objectives include classical breeding, biochemistry, quantitative genetics and plant genomics. Broader impacts include capacity-building and advanced training for students from the United States to engage in interdisciplinary research in plant improvement and associated sciences such as physiology, quantitative genetics, and computational biology.