Dr. Laurie Leonelli joined the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) as a tenure-track assistant professor in January 2021. Dr. Leonelli has B.A. in Biological Sciences from Mount Holyoke College and Ph.D. in Plant Biology from University of California - Berkeley. She was hired through the Targets of Opportunity Program, with significant support provided by the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.
Dr. Leonelli integrates genomics, proteomics, and synthetic biology to engineer plants with improved photosynthesis. She investigates the natural diversity in photosynthetic enzymes from non-model and emerging model species to source materials for manipulating energy harvesting and dissipation in crops. She has worked productively in three exceptional labs each headed by a member of the National Academy: photosynthesis engineering - Niyogi Lab at UC-Berkeley; gene regulatory networks - Coruzzi Lab at New York University; and protein structure and plant immunity - Staskawicz Lab at UC-Berkeley.
She also has had considerable teaching experience, including teaching courses at the college level, developing online texts, and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, she has participated in community outreach by bringing science into local elementary and middle school classrooms. Her research agenda in ABE will combine synthetic biology, biochemistry, physiology, and genomics to identify photosynthetic proteins and pathways to improve photosynthesis. Her research interests and perspective will add new dimensions to the biological engineering program in ABE and will bridge research in ABE with photosynthesis research from across campus.