REU: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry of Plant Immunity against Biotic Stress

Pending funding approval.

For information contact

Lirong Zeng

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The 2019 REU student with her supervising postdoc in the lab.
The 2019 REU student with her supervising postdoc in the lab.

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Plant Science
  • Plant Pathology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

Crop yield losses caused by plant disease are in the value of billions of dollars worldwide each year, which has made it an alarming threat to the food security in feeding a burgeoning global population. Understanding and eventually manipulating for crop improvement the key molecular mechanisms that plants use to defend against various pathogens are thus of considerable agricultural, economic, and social importance. Among the mechanisms pivotal for host defense is ubiquitination, a major post-translational protein modification process that occurs in plant, animal, and human cells. 

A particular type of unconventional modification of proteins by ubiquitin, lysine (K)-63-linked ubiquitination, is well documented to be crucial in modulating human and animal innate and adaptive immunity. However, the roles of K63-linked ubiquitination in plant immunity and other plant physiological processes have been significantly understudied, even though K63-linkage is the second most abundant type of ubiquitination in plants. This project investigates the mechanistic basis of regulating plant innate immunity by this type of unconventional ubiquitination and includes education development for high school science teachers and minority undergraduate students and outreach to the Nebraska farmers and stakeholders.


  • Competitive stipend: $5000
  • Suite-style room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.


  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  • Outdoor adventures
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Dr. Lirong Zeng Center for Plant Science Innovation and Plant Pathology

Role of Organelle-localized Lys63-Linked Ubiquitination in Plant Immunity

Lirong Zeng is a molecular plant pathologist. His research has focused on the identification and characterization of genes and signal transduction pathways involved in plant immunity against microbial pathogens, particularly the roles and mechanism by which the ubiquitination system regulates plant defense responses. Given that plant immunity is inextricably connected to plant development and environmental factors, his research also involves understanding the signaling crosstalk that orchestrates plant responses to different intrinsic and extrinsic signals.  Lirong's long-term goal is to elucidate and eventually manipulate for crop improvement the key molecular mechanisms that plants use to defend themselves against different biotic stresses.