John Chau


  • Time Zone

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I am a plant evolutionary biologist interested in how the extraordinary diversity of plants came to be. I use genetic sequence data to investigate relationships between different plants. Knowing the relationships between plants then allows me to study other aspects of their evolutionary history, such as how different traits have evolved or how plant distributions have changed over time.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    Being a scientist means your job is to follow your curiosity to figure something out that no human has ever known before. You are creating new knowledge that not only makes the world more interesting, but could also have big benefits to society. If you are studying something you are truly passionate about, there is nothing more fulfilling than being a scientist.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is the coolest thing you have discovered or learned about plants?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    There are so many cool things about plants; it's hard to name just one. But one very cool group of plants are the pitcher plants of Southeast Asia, in the genus Nepenthes. The tips of their leaves form pitchers or cups, which fill with water and enzymes that digest any animals that have the misfortune of falling in and drowning. The leaves can then absorb the nutrients from the animal's digested body. One species in this group has evolved not to capture animals, but attracts small mammals to pee in its pitchers. Pee has a lot of nutrients which the leaves can absorb.

  • Profile Question 3
    What is a typical day like for you?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    There is no typical day for me, which is part of the fun of being a plant scientist. Some days, I am doing fieldwork, perhaps in the wilds of a faraway country looking for plants. Some days, I am in the lab, working with DNA to get gene sequence data. Some days, I am working on the computer to analyze the sequence data. Some days, I am reading papers about exciting new discoveries or writing one of my own.

Recent Posts

kool krew John Chau

Sounds like you got another interesting result! What possible explanations have you thought of for why the light green leaves had the most floaters (=did the most photosynthesis)?

The results from your second assay show the importance of having…

phswcrogersfall2017 project 1 John Chau


Looks like you guys are planning to look at how salinity (amount of salt in water) affects plants. Sounds great!

What will you measure to determine if there is an effect? In other words, how will you determine if spinach is…

kool krew John Chau


Great reasoning about your first assay and explaining the mechanism behind what you saw. One small clarification about why the leaf disks float: It is true that oxygen gas accumulates in the leaves when photosynthesis occurs, causing them…


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