Principle Investigator

Z. Jeffrey Chen

D. J. Sibley Centennial Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics

Zengjian Jeffrey Chen (Jeff) received his B.S. in Agronomy at Zhejiang Agricultural University (now Zhejiang University), M.S. in Crop Genetics and Breeding at Nanjing Agricultural University, and Ph.D. in Genetics at Texas A&M University (dissertation advisor: Gary E. Hart).  Following a postdoctoral position with Dr. Ronald L. Phillips and Dr. Howard W. Rines at University of Minnesota and an NIH postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Craig S. Pikaard at Washington University in St. Louis, he joined the faculty at Texas A&M in 1999, where he was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure. In 2005, he joined the faculty of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology (now Department of Molecular Biosciences), Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, and Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology at The University of Texas at Austin, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2008 and holder of the D. J. Sibley Centennial Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology. From 2011 to February 2021, Prof. Chen was an Adjunct Professor and served an advisory role at Nanjing Agricultural University.

Jeff Chen has developed an innovative research program to study molecular mechanisms for gene expression changes and evolutionary consequences in hybrids (formed between strains of the same or different species) and allopolyploids (formed between two or more related species) relative to the parents. His research employs Arabidopsis (a weedy plant in the mustard family) and cotton as experimental systems and uses genomic, proteomic, and systems biology approaches, as well as molecular biology and genetic methodologies. Dosage changes and novel interactions between parental genomes and alleles in hybrids and polyploids may induce epigenetic and epigenomic changes, leading to hybrid incompatibilityheterosis in plants, and diseases and cancers in animals. He and his colleagues have found that epigenetic changes in gene expression in plant hybrids and allopolyploids are associated with altered circadian rhythms and hybrid vigorseed sizeenhanced resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and fiber cell and trichome development. Moreover, the results have significant implications, not only for the field of genetics and epigenetics, but also for the ultimate success of biotechnological efforts to safely and effectively manipulate gene expression associated with growth vigor in plants and crops that produce food, feed, and biofuels.


Zhejiang Agricultural University Agronomy B.S., 1984
Nanjing Agricultural University Crop Genetics & Breeding M.S., 1987
Texas A&M University Genetics Ph.D., 1993
University of Minnesota Plant Genetics Postdoc, 1993-1995
Washington University Epigenetics NIH Postdoc, 1995-1999


1986-1988 Faculty of Plant Genetics, Northeast Agricultural University
1990-1993 Interdisciplinary Genetics Program, Texas A&M University. Dissertation Advisor: Gary E. Hart
1993-1995 Postdoctoral Associate, University of Minnesota. Mentors: Ronald L. Phillips and Howard W. Rines
1995-1999 NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Washington University-St. Louis. Mentor: Craig S. Pikaard
1999-2005 Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University
Genetics, Molecular and Environmental Plant Sciences
2005 Associate Professor, Texas A&M University
2005-2008 Associate Professor and D. J. Sibley Centennial Professorship Fellow, University of Texas at Austin
Section of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology
Cellular and Molecular Biology, Plant Biology
Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
2007 Adjunct Professor, Integrative Biology
2008 Professor, D. J. Sibley Centennial Professorship in Plant Molecular Genetics
2011 Adjunct Professor (summer part-time), Nanjing Agricultural University


1989-1990 Graduate Scholarship, K. C. Wong Foundation in Hong Kong
1995-1997 Monsanto Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Monsanto Company
1997-1999 National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award
2005 D. J. Sibley Centennial Professorship Fellow in Plant Molecular Genetics
2005 Fellow of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology
2010-2011 Faculty Development Program Award
2010-2011 Fulbright US-UK Scholar Award
Lent 2011 Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, University of Cambridge
2011 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
2016 Cotton Biotechnology Award


The Genetics Society of America (GSA)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)
Epigenetics Society
Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE)