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C.J. Tsai

Professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
Plant Biology; Genetics; Warnell School of Forest Resources
Lab Website:
B310, Davison Life Sciences
Lab Phone:
B314, Davison Life Sciences
Office Phone:
Research Interests:

I am a plant biologist with a special passion for large organisms - trees! Trees are ‘large' not merely by their physical or genome size, but primarily by their longevity. Longevity depends on a perennial growth habit, which can mean added functionalities for genes, proteins, and metabolites compared to herbaceous annuals. The quest for 'what makes a tree a tree' has led to various projects ranging from gene family evolution and functional diversification to transgenic manipulation of traits important to growth and development. Needless to say, our research has industrial relevance due to the importance of forest trees as renewable feedstock. Our work is also of ecological relevance because many of the traits we investigate are important in tree interactions with herbivores and pathogens.

We use a variety of experimental approaches in our investigations, ranging from transcriptomics, metabolomics and CRISPR genome editing, to the more traditional tools of genetics, biochemistry and plant physiology. We accept technical challenges and have many times developed or adapted necessary tools to advance our research. For this reason, our lab regularly hosts visiting scholars for technical training, such as in situ hybridization, genome editing, and metabolomic analysis.


Tsai C-J, Muchero W, Ranjan P, WINTR: Winter transcriptome regulation in poplar. DOE (2022-2025)

Buell CR, Dardick C, Parrott W, Schmitz R, Shih P, Tsai C-J, Urbanowicz B, BioPoplar: a tunable chassis for diversified bioproduct production. DOE (2022-2027)

Tuskan GA et al., The Center for Bioenergy Innovation II. DOE Bioenergy Research Center (2022-2027)

Yang L, Tsai C-J, Investigate the roles of endogenous salicylic acid in de novo organogenesis. NSF (2021-2024)

Tsai C-J, Brewer MT, McGregor CE, Smith SM, van der Knaap E, Crop Genetics and Genomics II: Promoting diversity in agriscience through undergraduate mentoring in research and extension. USDA-AFRI (2022-2027)

Tsai C-J, Donovan LA, Harding SA, Li Z, Mitchum MG, Villari C, Yang L, ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for metabolite profiling in crop and forestry research. USDA-AFRI (2021-2023)

Articles Featuring C.J. Tsai

CJ Tsai, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor in Plant Biology, Genetics, and in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, has been a named a recipient of the Scientific Achievement Award of the International Union of Forest…

We are thrilled to announce two well-deserved awards presented to Max Barnhart and Yen-Ho Chen from the Department of Plant Biology. 

A project to decode the genome of aspen trees has revealed a new wrinkle in how chromosomes are constructed—and it may have larger evolutionary implications, according to researchers in the Tsai lab at the University of Georgia.

C.J. Tsai, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, and her research team have developed a new way to speed up the study of flower characteristics in poplar trees. Poplar flowers play a vital role in tree reproduction; however, they typically take around 7 to…

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Audrey Widmier

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