About PRL Outline

Back entrance to the Plant Research Laboratory

Welcome to the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), where we aim to discover how photosynthetic organisms work, in order to improve lives.

General Introduction and History

The MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL) is a research institute located on the campus of Michigan State University, with major funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE). The PRL is a unique community of scholars with a rare, energizing esprit de corps, dedicated to answering fundamental questions in plant biology. Our goal is to provide a broad and thorough scientific education in modern plant biology. The PRL is affiliated with one college and seven departments through joint appointments of its faculty:

The PRL offers study programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. For more info, visit the Graduate Program page.

Mention that we are both research and education

The PRL has exceptional research facilities. We maintain a centralized equipment facility that includes a quantitative densitometer, a phosphorimager, a biolistic particle gun, an electroporator, gas and high-performance liquid chromatography stations and specialized facilities and imaging equipment in the Plant Biology Building or adjacent buildings. 


What the brand stands for (includes unique value proposition) / What we stand for

In essence, we are an intersection of knowledge and action of plant science and technological innovation, of the DOE and MSU, etc

Photosynthetic Heavy research

Great Education

Elite Environment / Extraordinary Impact

  • 12 Pis, top in their niche disciplines (other institutions have hundreds to thousands of researchers) – well-established, selective faculty
    • Good record of pubs and placement
    • The innovative apps we’re coming with “help others” and help aspiring scientists to “help others.”
    • 50 year legacy
  • MSU difference for Kenny Wang (Christoph’s grad student): MSU the largest plant community - Large variety of labs ad speciailzations - Collaboration (Plant Health Sustainability Program (forces internships in applied fields)

Interdisciplinary research / Colective Power

  • Interdisciplinary: some of the universities are wide reaching in research lab specialties but seemingly isolated in efforts


  • Small size (especially when compared to large universities with broader scopes and potentially more disjointed labs or plant institutions that are just BIG): 
    • Intimate size and flexible research options.
  • Intimate environment and Friendly – PRL people very close to each other



What we do (three drivers)

Our three driver brands are indeed, three uniques: Our power is in the fluidity/intersection of our driver brands and the value propositions, together.

  • Our value propositions vs. universities are unique in that we include real-world applications education in addition to basic science. Universities boast about it, but few actually do it.
  • Some large plant institutions target post-docs but not grad. Students, so we can corner that market.
  • Some of our labs are doing innovative, ground-breaking stuff


  • Value proposition for students/post-docs/DOE audiences matches most of our competitors in this driver who are universities limited to research
    • YET, Value propositions superior as we are more flexible, being able to educate while claiming we are a premiere research institution. Also, our size and quality of research (# of pubs, history/legacy) is superior.

Good quotes

“PRL personality: The PRL has a clear perceived personality for insiders as a collaborative and tight-knit community doing quality research that continues a 50-year prestigious legacy.”

“PRL individuals’ personality: PRL individuals are creative, intelligent, dedicated, healthy-living people at the forefront of plant science and synthetic biology.”

Future Scientists (Perceptual Map language)

From Perceptual maps that didn't make it.

Use this language: academia/industry (for the types of positions people have gotten. Adam Jordan, Rodney Burton, Taylor Weiss). Collaborative and individual research. Research that helps society while furthering careers.

For Idealists: A place to get a plant-heavy interdisciplinary education, embedded in one of the best plant schools worldwide, that prepares them for immediate applications or academia once they graduate.

For Strategic Career Planners: One of the elite plant institutions with a 50-year legacy of producing award-winning and well-placed scientists.

There is a track record for PRL alumni getting jobs(ex: one DOE national lab devoted to renewable energy)

Funding for research, so you don’t have to TA as much

Top 5 PUV for incoming students (need to list these):

Research quality

  • We “know” photosynthetic organisms/photosynthesis experts
  • DOE trust
  • Internationally acknowledged elite scientists

Career prospects

  • Alumni make it places
  • HHMI/NAS placements
  • Pub records
  • Alumni stories need to be told
  • Industry stories need to be told

Education Quality

  • Training is a core part of what we do
  • PRL is the beating heart of MSU molecular plant science
  • MSU molecular plant science education is renown worldwide
  • MSU plant sciences are collaborative, so opportunities for networking etc.
  • Opportunities for different career options (applied or not - Kenny’s biotech training institute)

Institutional Research foci

  • DOE grant forces us to laser focus
  • We know who we are (we don’t do everything)
  • Our research foci are well defined, yet fluid and interrelated à collaboration and trusting community

Freedom of Research

  • Learn new science and techniques under guidance of great mentors (Hope learned CRISPR alone – Michael Das encouraged by Howe to do project)

  • Rodney: we have a goal (DOE goals), but Cheryl gives the troops the freedom to  take different paths towards the mountain we are trying to climb.