James Umen, Ph.D.

Algae are hidden drivers of global ecosystem productivity with unrealized potential.  We seek to unlock the secrets of algal growth, reproduction and development in an environment where basic discoveries can be transformed into real-world innovations in biofuels, agriculture and medicine.

James Umen

He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and an instructor at Guilin Geology College in China. Umen received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of California – San Francisco and his B.S. in Biology from Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.

Prior to joining the Danforth Center as a member of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels, Jim Umen served as Assistant Professor of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Research Team


   Sa Geng, Research Scientist

I am working on the molecular basis of sex dimporphism and morphogenesis of the multicellular volvocine algae Volvox carteri, and clarifying the RB/Mat3 function diversities through studying the RB/Mat3 repressor pathway evolution in volvocine alage.


   Yi-Hsiang Chou, Postdoctoral Associate

I am interested in understanding the relationship between mechanisms of cell size control (e.g. cell growth) and of cell cycle regulation (e.g. cell division). My research focus is to investigate new components involved in the RB/MAT3 regulatory pathway together with MAT3 (RB homolog in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) to regulate and balance cell size and cell cycle in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.
     Zoee Perrine, Postdoctoral Associate
Dianyi Liu, Graduate Student at Washington University in St. Louis

I am working on the cell-size control of Chlamydomonas.


  Gavriel Matt, Graduate Student

I am using the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri and the closely related unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, as a model system to better understand the evolution of multicellularity and cellular differentiation.  By comparing molecular signatures of cellular differentiation in Volvox to orthologous machinery in Chlamydomonas, I will investigate the unicellular origins of differentiated multicellularity.

    Sarah Rommelfanger, Graduate Student

     Jie Li, Laboratory Assistant



Lab Alumni

 Valdez - RValdez_Photo         
Ryan Valdez, REU Intern

My project is "Studying synergism between inositol phosphates and TOR signaling using the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii itpk1 mutant."
    Ravi Balasubramanian, Volunteer