Maria Sorkin
Washington University Ph.D. Graduate Student
Plant and Microbial Science Graduate Program
Dmitri Nusinow Lab, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Maria Sorkin has recently been named the 2018 William H. Danforth Plant Science Scholar. Maria is a second year Ph.D. student at Washington University in St. Louis and is pursuing her doctoral research in Dmitri Nusinow’s lab, which uses protein biochemistry to understand the molecular mechanisms behind how light and other environmental signals regulate the plant circadian clock.  Maria grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"We are very lucky to have Maria working with us here at the Danforth Center. She is an enthusiastic, intelligent and talented scientist who is focused on improving agriculture through basic plant research. Maria strives to connect her work in agricultural biotechnology to the broader scientific and non-scientific communities through teaching and outreach.
– Dmitri Nusinow, PhD

From the Lab to the Community
As an undergraduate at Kenyon College, Maria participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates internship program at North Carolina State University, during which time she became fascinated with the circadian clock—an endogenous timekeeper that synchronizes  plant processes with daily and seasonal cues from the environment.  Her dissertation research focuses on identifying the protein-protein interactions involved in clock function. Ultimately, this knowledge can be used to manipulate clock-regulated phenotypes, such as flowering time, that have important potential applications to agriculture

During her undergraduate studies, Maria also developed a passion for science communication and outreach, serving as the STEM Community Intern and member and president of the Kenyon STEM organization. Here in St. Louis, she serves as the head of the Genetics and Genomics Teaching Team with the Washington University Young Scientists Program, which develops and carries out interactive science activities related to a wide variety of STEM topics in classroom visits to K-12 schools. Maria is working to develop a new Genetics and Genomics module centered on plant biology to promote the plant sciences in St. Louis public schools.

At Kenyon, Maria was recognized by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) as an up and coming leader in the plant sciences and was awarded the ASPB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. During her first year of graduate school, she was named the 2017-2018 Catharine M. Lieneman Scholar at Washington University for her continued efforts to promote the plant sciences and she was selected to join the inaugural class of ASPB Conviron Scholars.

Because medical and other kinds of research receive significantly more federal and foundation funding than plant science, the William H. Danforth Graduate Fellowship is especially important for enabling talented young scientists like Maria to pursue careers in this critically important field. Thanks to Roy and Diana Vagelos, Maria and others will have the opportunity to conduct their research with the guidance of outstanding principal investigators at the Danforth Center.