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Research Overview

The research in my lab focuses on the formation of the plant cell wall and how various external and internal factors influence cell wall chemistry. The plant cell wall is important from a number of perspectives for human use including food and fiber, but my research focuses on improving its usefulness as a source for biofuels and other bioproducts. Towards this goal, I have two areas of specific interest: 1. Understanding how nitrogen influences cell wall formation, and specifically looking at how we can improve cell wall quality, while at the same time reducing the required nitrogen consumption by plants – how can nitrogen use efficiency in the plants be improved such that we maximize biomass production and produce the highest quality wood for the least nitrogen inputs. 2. Expression of cellulases in planta: cellulases are a high-cost input in the production of biofuels. One way to reduce the cost of cellulases is to produce plants that have less crystalline cellulose and less polymerized cellulose, and also to potentially produce high levels of cellulases in the plant for use in processing.

Available Lab Positions

Post-doctoral researcher

The Coleman Lab has limited openings for exceptional postdocs at Syracuse University. Experience in molecular biology, plant tissue culture and plant physiology is preferred. Please contact Professor Coleman directly if you are interested in a position (

Graduate Student

Graduate student positions are currently available in the lab working on one of the two projects outlined above. Students will be using poplar, a well characterized model tree species, and carrying out projects encompassing molecular biology, plant tissue culture, biochemistry, wood chemistry and plant physiology. Financial support is available through teaching assistantships, and includes benefits and tuition remission. Assistantships begin in Fall 2016. Applicants should apply through the online system found at and also send an expression of interest including a CV, cover letter, and names and full contact details for three references to Heather Coleman (; 315-443-0453).

Undergraduate Researcher

Undergraduate researchers in the lab get hands-on experience in the areas of molecular biology, plant tissue culture and wood chemistry analysis. This may include PCR, restriction digests, gel electrophoresis, gas chromatography, NMR, and ion chromatography.

Due to the time required to carry out these research projects, student should be prepared to spend a minimum of 2 semesters on this research experience. Students who contribute significantly to a project will contribute to and be included in authorship on publications.