Richard Meilan

Professor of Molecular Tree Physiology
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Pfendler Hall, room G021E
715 W. State Street
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN  47907-2061
Tel: 765-496-2287
Fax: 765-494-9461


Research Interests

  • Initiation of lateral and adventitious roots
  • Phytoremediation
  • Cell wall modification
  • Production of figure wood
  • Poplar species suitability and yield trials

Recent Publications

·         Harfouche, A., Meilan, R., and Altman, A. 2014. Molecular and physiological responses to abiotic stress in forest trees and their relevance to tree improvement. Tree Physiology (in press).

·         Klocko, A.L., Meilan R., James, R.R., Viswanath, V., Huso, M., Ma, C., Payne, P., Miller, L., Skinner, J.S., Oppert, B., Cardineau, G.A., and Strauss, S.H. 2014. Bt-Cry3Aa expression reduces insect damage and improves growth in field-grown hybrid poplar. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 44:28-35

·         Fan, Y., Rupert, K., Wiedenhoeft, A.C., Woeste, K., Lexer, C., and Meilan, R. 2013. Figured grain in aspen is heritable and not affected by graft-transmissible signals. Trees–Structure and Function 27(4):973-983.

·         French, D. and Meilan, R. 2013. Germination trials for Asian and North American ash species. Tree Planters’ Notes 56(1):27-34.

·         Huang, Z., Zhao, P., Medina, J., Meilan, R, and Woeste, K. 2013. Roles of JnRAP2.6-like from the transition zone of black walnut in hormone signaling. PLoS ONE 8(11): e75857. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0075857

·         Trupiano, D., Yordanov, Y., Regan, S., Meilan, R., Tschaplinski, T., Scippa, G.S., and Busov, V. 2013. Identification and characterization of an AP2/ERF transcription factor that promotes adventitious and lateral root formation in Populus. Planta 238(2):271-82. DOI: 10.1007/s00425-013-1890-4.

·         Harfouche, A., Meilan, R., Kirst, M., Morgante, M., Boerjan, W., Sabatti, M., and Scarascia Mugnozza, G. 2012. Accelerating the domestication of forest trees in a changing world. Trends in Plant Science 17(2):64-72.

·         Hsu, C.-Y., Adams, J.P., No, K., Liang, H., Meilan, R., Pechanova, O., Barakat, A., Carlson, J.E., Page, G.P., Luthe, D., and Yuceer, C. 2012. Overexpression of CONSTANS homologs CO1 and CO2 fails to alter normal reproductive onset, spring bud break, and fall bud set in woody perennial poplar. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45448.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045448.

·         Meilan, R., Harfouche, A., and Nehra, N. 2012. Risk Assessment of Biotech Trees: A Path Forward. Journal of Forestry 110(3):171-172

·         Rubinelli, P.M., Chuck, G., Li, X., and Meilan R. 2013. Constitutive expression of microRNA Corngrass1 in poplar affects axillary meristem outgrowth, internode length, and lignin quantity and composition. Biomass and Bioenergy 54:312-321.

·         Zawaski, C., Ma, C., Strauss, S.H., French, D., Meilan, R. and Busov, V.B. 2012. PHOTOPERIOD RESPONSE 1 (PHOR1)–like genes regulate shoot/root growth, starch accumulation, and wood formation in Populus. Journal of Experimental Botany 63(15):5623-5634 DOI:10.1093/jxb/ers217.

·         Busov, V., Yordanov, Y., Gou, J., Meilan, R., Ma, C., Regan, S., and Strauss, S. 2010. Activation tagging is an effective gene tagging system in Populus. Submitted to: Tree Genetics and Genomes 7(1):91-101.

·         Harfouche, A., Grant, K., Selig, M., Tsai, D., and Meilan R. 2010. Protecting innovation: Genomics-based intellectual property for the development of feedstock for second-generation biofuels. Submitted to: Recent Patents on DNA and Gene Sequences.

·         Huang, Z., Meilan, R., and Woeste, K.E. 2010. JnCML-like, an EF-hand motif-containing gene from black walnut highly expressed during heartwood formation. Submitted to: Tree Physiology.

·         Huang, Z., Meilan, R., and Woeste, K.E. 2010. JnRAP2-like, an ethylene-related AP2 domain-containing transcription factor in black walnut. Submitted to: Plant Physiology.

·         Mohamed, R., Wang, C.-T., Ma, C., Shevchenko, O., Dye, S., Puzey, J., Etherington, E., Sheng, X., Meilan, R., Strauss, S., and Brunner, A. 2010. CEN/TFL1 regulates first onset of flowering, axillary meristem identity and dormancy release in Populus. Submitted to: Plant Journal

·         Stewart, C.N., Jr., Shugart, L., Liu, G.S., Zhuang, J., Ma, Y., Tuskan, G.A., Meilan, R., Gentry, R.W., and Sayler, G.S. 2010. China-U.S. workshop on biotechnology of bioenergy plants. Ecotoxicology 19(1):1-3.

·         Huang, Z., Tsai, C.-J., Harding, S.A., Meilan, R., Woeste, K.E. 2009. A cross-species transcriptional profile analysis of heartwood formation in black walnut. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter DOI: 10.1007/s11105-009-0144-x.

·         Huang, Z., Meilan, R., and Woeste, K.E. 2009. A KNAT3-like homeobox gene from Juglans nigra, JnKNAT3-like, is highly expressed during heartwood formation. Plant Cell Reports DOI: 10.1007/s00299-009-0771-6.

·         Dunning, J.B., Meilan, R., Jacobs, D., Blank, G.B., Easley, T., and Olsson, M. 2009. Collaborative Study Abroad – Combining efforts to improve undergraduate experience. NACTA Journal 52(4):20-24.

·         Li, J., Brunner, A.M., Meilan, R., and Strauss, S.H. 2008. Stability of transgenes in trees: Expression of two reporter genes in poplar over three field seasons. Tree Physiology DOI: 10.1093/treephys/tpn028.

·         Li, J., Brunner, A.M., Meilan, R., and Strauss, S.H. 2008. Matrix attachment region elements have small and variable effects on transgene expression and stability in field-grown Populus. Plant Biotechnology Journal 6:887-896.

·         Li, J., Brunner, A.M., Shevchenko, O., Meilan, R., Ma, C., Skinner, J.S., and Strauss, S.H. 2008. Efficient and stable transgene suppression via RNAi in field-grown poplars. Transgenic Research (DOI: 10.1007/s11248-007-9148-1.

·         Li, J., Meilan, R.,. Ma, C., Barish, M., and Strauss, S.H. 2008. Stability of herbicide resistance over 8 years of coppice in field-grown, genetically engineered poplars. Western Journal of Applied Forestry 23(2):89-93.

·         Michler, C.H., Pijut, P.M., Meilan, R., Smagh, G., Liang, X., and Woeste, K.E. 2007. Black Walnut. In: A Compendium of Transgenic Crop Plants, vol. 9. C. Kole and T.C. Hall, eds. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, U.K.

·         Chapple, C., Ladisch, M., and Meilan, R. 2007. Loosening lingin's grip on biofuel production. Nature Biotechnology 25(7):746-748.

·         Doty, S.L., James, C.A., Moore, A.L., Vajzovic, A., Singleton, G.L., Ma, C., Khan, Z., Xin, G., Kang, J.W., Park, J.Y., Meilan, R., Strauss, S.H., and Strand, S.E. 2007. Phytoremediation of volatile environmental pollutants with transgenic trees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 104(43):16816-16821.

·         Farnum, P., Lucier, A., and Meilan, R. 2007. Ecological and population genetics research imperatives for transgenic trees. Tree Genetics and Genomes 3(2):119-133.

·         Wei, H., Meilan, R., Brunner, A.M., Skinner, J.S., Ma, C., Gandhi, H., and Strauss, S.H. 2007. Field trial detects incomplete barstar attenuation of vegetative cytotoxicity in Populus trees containing a poplar LEAFY promoter::barnase sterility transgene. Molecular Breeding 19(1):69-85.

·         Wang, Y.J., Wisniewski, M., Meilan, R., Uratsu, S.L., Cui, M.G., Dandekar, A, and Fuchigami, L. 2007. Ectopic expression of Mn-SOD in Lycopersicon esculentum leads to enhanced tolerance to salt and oxidative stress. Journal of Applied Horticulture 9(1): 3-8.

·         Wang, Y.J., Wisniewski, M., Meilan, R., Cui, M.G., and Fuchigami, L. 2007. Transgenic tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) overexpressing cAPX exhibits enhanced tolerance to UV-B and heat stress. Journal of Applied Horticulture 9(2): 87-90.

·         Busov, V.B., Meilan, R., Pearce, D.W., Rood, S.B., Ma, C., Tschaplinski, T.J., and Strauss, S.H. 2006. DELLA-less Arabidopsis GAI and RGL1 induce dwarfism, altered root morphology, and complex metabolic changes in transgenic poplars. Planta 224(2):288-299.

·         Davis, M.F., Tuskan, G.A., Payne, P., Tschaplinski, T.J., and Meilan, R. 2006. Assessment of Populus wood chemistry following the introduction of a Bt toxin gene. Tree Physiology 26:557–564.

·         Filichkin, S.A., Wu, Q., Busov, V.B., Meilan, R., Lanz-Garcia, C., Groover, A.T., Goldfarb, B., Ma, C., Dharmawardhana, P., Brunner A.M., and Strauss, S.H. 2006. Enhancer trapping in woody plants: isolation of a putative AT-hook motif transcription factor ET304 and characterization of the expression patterns conferred by its promoter in transgenic Populus and Arabidopsis. Plant Science 171(2):206-216.

·         Filichkin, S.A., Meilan, R., Busov, V.B., Ma, C., Brunner A.M., and Strauss S.H. 2006. Alcohol-inducible gene expression in transgenic Populus. Plant Cell Reports 25(7):660-667.

·         Wei, H., Meilan, R., Brunner, A.M., Skinner, J.S., Ma, C., and Strauss, S.H. 2006. Transgenic sterility in Populus: Expression properties of the poplar PTLF, Agrobacterium NOS, and two minimal 35S promoters in vegetative tissues. Tree Physiology 26:401-410.

·         Meilan, R. 2006. Challenges to commercial use of transgenic plants. Journal of Crop Improvement 18(1/2):433-450.

Recent Grants

·         DOE, Office of Science; “Center for the Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuel”; many co-investigators; 2014-2017; $12,000,000.

·         FuturaGene; “Field testing cell-wall modified transgenic poplar”; R. Meilan; 2013-2015; $213,000.

·         Hoosier Energy;The use of Populus plantings for leachate absorption and acoustic abatement, Phase II”; R. Meilan; 03/01/13-02/28/14; $69,841.

·         Brandt Consolidated, Inc.; “Conducting research related to low-pressure injection systems”; 2012-2012; $2,543.

·         FuturaGene, Inc.; “Conducting research related to poplar transformation”; 2012-2013; $50,000.

·         Hoosier Energy; “The use of Populus plantings for leachate absorption and acoustic abatement”, R. Meilan and B.C. Pijanowski, 03/01/12-02/28/13, $$126,269.30.

·         Hoosier Energy, “Poplar species suitability and yield”, 2011-2012, $25,000.

·         FuturaGene, “Improving water relations in poplar”, 2011-2012, $50,000.

·         Mary S. Rice Foundation, Purdue University; “Fertigating poplar plantations to assess productivity effects”; R. Meilan, D.L. Cassens, D.E. Carlson; 03/01/10-02/28/11; $10,000.

·         Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research (CPBR); “Improving water relations of Populus for use as a bio-energy crop”; R. Meilan; $103,037; 06/01/09-05/31/11.

·         National Science Foundation; “Center for Advanced Forestry Systems” (for the formation of a multi-site NSF I/UCRC Center between Purdue, Oregon State, North Carolina State, and Virginia Polytechnic Universities); C.H. Michler and R. Meilan; Purdue share: $350,000; 2008-2012.

·         Purdue Research Foundation; “Comparing transcriptome and metabolome profiles of Asian and North American ash species to determine the basis for Emerald Ash Borer resistance”; R. Meilan; 6/1/2008-5/31/2011; $16,750.

·         Frederick van Eck Foundation; “Comparing transcriptome and metabolome profiles of Asian and North American ash species”; R. Meilan; 01/01/07-12/31/10; $40,000.

·         Frederick van Eck Foundation; Genetic and phenotypic characterization of figured wood in poplar 01/01/07-12/31/10; $40,000.

·         Chrysler Corporation; “Transgenic poplars for remediation of a wide range of environmental pollutant”; R. Meilan; 9/1/2007-8/31/2011; $101,835.

Expectations for Ph.D. Students

A student completing a Ph.D. program should:

1.      Have personal motivation, curiosity, and enthusiasm for becoming a scientist;

2.      Have a broad knowledge of the philosophy, history, and current state of science;

3.      Be competent in major techniques used in molecular biology research, including statistical, field, and laboratory methods;

4.      Be able to think clearly, critically, and creatively-beyond the level expected for students seeking an M.S. degree;

5.      Routinely read the scientific literature in general, and be fully informed regarding the state of science within your chosen field of study;

6.      Be able to communicate clearly and effectively, in written and oral presentations (N.B., We have a one-year probationary period during which Ph.D. students must write a research article or a research proposal (in English) to demonstrate that they are capable of successfully completing their program of study); and

7.      Reach the following milestones:

·         Coursework plan developed by end of first semester;

·         Research plan developed by end of second semester;

·         Steady progress on research (frequent meetings with the student will be used to gauge progress); and

·         Submission of at least one original research paper before graduation, and at least two more papers ready for submission near the time of graduation. The total number of papers will vary by project, and allowances will be made for cases in which large (monograph) papers are prepared. (N.B., People who successfully compete for good jobs after graduation tend to exceed this level of productivity by 50-100% during their Ph.D. programs.)

Useful Links


Tree Biotechnology Resources


Agricultural Biotechnology Resources

Sequence Databases

Biosafety and Regulation Resources