Jill Marzolino


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    University of California, Riverside

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

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I'm interested in using genetics to improve crop productivity. My background work was in light signaling and shade response, but I currently research how local adaptation happens in populations on the genomic level and which genes are essential for plant life.

  • Profile Question 1
    Can you describe your attitude toward science when you were in high school?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    When I was in high school biology was one of my favorite subjects, but I didn't quite realize it. I simply loved learning all of the facts about living things as I had since I was a kid. I'd had tons of favorite animals and a big binder with fact sheets on exotic animals. I loved being taken to the zoo, the botanic garden, the aquarium and got to see a lot of special collections and beautiful species. My biology classes just taught me even more. In biology, I got to extract DNA from onions and seeing the little fluffy white puff form and knowing that this stuff was what made up, what had the coded directions for all living things, makes me shiver to this day. I loved doing reports about genetic diseases because I find tracing lineages and understanding heritability so interesting.

    When we started the chapter on plant biology the class groaned, they only cared about animals. But I was excited to learn about flower structures and vascular systems so different from my own, and, most importantly, the magic of solar power. The literal inverse of our own metabolism, plants MAKE themselves out of CO2, our waste product, and light, which constantly flows freely from the sun. By the end of the class I had realized that I was good at biology and that I was excited for the class every day, and that I preferred plants and genetics to animals. I disliked the smell of formaldehyde and the scalpels struggling to slice through a cow heart or fetal pig or frog belly to reveal the tiny, oddly shaped organs inside.

    Plant cells snap crisply and are dissected with razor blades, you can hold them in your hand and see everything you need in the delicate folds of the petals and measure angles of bending stems and leaves, pull up the roots, wash and examine them before re-potting. High school is when I started to fall in love with the clean, different elegance of plant biology and genetics.

  • 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):
    One of my favorite facts to share about plants is that cold weather trees replace their blood with sugar during the winter. Think about it, tree vascular systems are full of water which freezes when trees stand out in the cold, surrounded by more frozen water -snow, which would break them open as water expands when it freezes. To avoid this they go into a hibernative state where they pack their veins with this molecularly dense substance so it doesn't freeze and then they thaw a return to transporting water in the spring. That's where we get sweet maple syrup!
    I love the ways that plants seem to come up with these elegant, passive solutions for their unique circumstances. I'm passionate about how they cope with environmental challenges and a lot of those unique innovations can be seen in the vascular system because water is life.

  • Profile Question 3
    What lessons have you learned in your career about how science works?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    The absolute, hands-down, most important lesson to learn about science is you have to be persistent. If you never never never never give up, you cannot be stopped. This makes stubbornness a fantastic trait for a researcher.
    Passion is also very important, because you can't keep going if you're not invested in the material. So find what you love about science; its fields span every bit of your life.
    If you can maintain your efforts and keep going, you will gain more knowledge and more insight and then get to share that with the vast body of knowledge that we are constructing together. Of all the human endeavors, I find this the most beautiful, because it is so tremendously collectivist and collaborative and the findings have physical and intangible benefits for everyone, forever. As Aristotle said, "There is pleasure in knowing," and these basic truths: passion, persistence, and the pleasure of the pursuit of knowledge are how science works.

  • Help represent the outreach efforts of your societies. Please click all those organizations you are a member of:
    Botanical Society of America

  • Challenge, ELL, Honors
    Academically Challenged
    ELL - English language learners
    Honors or AP - Advanced Placement
    None of the Above

  • Videoconference Ability

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

hvchsluccispring2018 project 10 Jill Marzolino
commented on a blog post

Well, the good news is you learned an important science lesson: setbacks happen *all the time*. You just have to keep going with what you've got (and plan backups). 

You made a spot-on decision to not use those plants because…

hvchsluccispring2018 project 10 Jill Marzolino
commented on a blog post

What you've done so far sounds great! 

Let's set up a hypothesis though. What do you think will be the result of exposing your ferns to acidic conditions? What about basic? 

You can think about what acids and bases are…

hvchsluccispring2018 project 10 Jill Marzolino
commented on a blog post

By the by, your germinated spores can be hermaphrodites (they produce both male and female gametes) or male (producing male gametes) and even change from male to hermaphroditic! 

Do you see any physical differences between…


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