Plants hold a special fascination for our scientists, who have made breakthrough discoveries in several areas.

One such area is ‘fungal pathogenesis,’ the process of how fungi infect and cause disease in a host. We unveil details of how certain fungi species transfer nitrogen from the insects that they kill to plants via their root systems, making the fungus a natural fertilizer as well as an insect repellant in agriculture.

We also identify detailed molecular processes that activate common plant defense responses, enabling plants to resist disease. Boosting innate disease resistance in plants could produce crops that require fewer applications of pesticides, resulting in cleaner soils and water, and safer food.

And, we are examining how plant cells can become “natural factories” that produce materials for disease resistance in plants and medicines to fight diseases like cancer in humans, among other things.

Beyond plants, our scientists research other compounds that can be used to treat cancer, bio-infection and diabetes. Another group investigates how silicon, silicones, enzymes and other materials can be used to make environmentally friendly products.

These innovations are part of a larger move to pursue environmentally friendly processes and products. Brock is known for its “green chemistry,” defined as being “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.”