Plant Biology

Picture of a golden root plant

Golden root plant


Jing-Ke Weng/Whitehead Institute


What’s so interesting about plants? At first glance they may appear a little tame, but these robust organisms are crucial to the survival of most land animals, including humans. They are vital resources that help shape our environment, provide us with food and shelter, and for centuries have been a potent source of medical and scientific discovery. Advances in biochemistry and genomics are identifying plant products that lead to new pharmaceuticals, improvements to crop yield and food security, and a better understanding of many biological processes—from gene regulation to protein folding—providing insights that may extend to humans and other species. Take a journey into the world of plant research and discover how this illuminating group of organisms is becoming a major gateway to the future of biomedicine and biotechnology.

Whitehead Institute Greenhouse Tour: The Importance of Studying Rare and Endangered Species

Take a glimpse into the inner workings of a bustling greenhouse facility with Rebecca Povilus, Postdoctoral Fellow, in Mary Gehring’s lab at Whitehead Institute. Follow Rebecca through the greenhouse as she explains how the tiny water lily, Nymphaea thermarum, is being used to better understand the evolutionary history of flowering plants. 

This video was created in conjunction with Whitehead Institute’s Annual Spring Lecture Series for High School Students. 

Herbal medicines decoded: how medicinal plants soothe and cure

Jing-Ke Weng talks with Science for the Public about the process, the discoveries, and the challenge of simulating plant chemistry for large-scale medical purposes.



Probing the Health Molecules of Plants: The Weng Lab at Whitehead Institute

The Weng Lab members discuss with Science for the Public about research to investigate plant molecules for their medical potential.


Solving Biology's Mysteries with Plants

Some of the most powerful and useful things in our world come from plants. Who knew they could help us unlock some of biology's mysteries - all using an approach of mapping biological pathways!


Decoding the chemical language of nature

Nature contains a secret layer of chemical diversity so vast that we barely explored it at all. Understanding it will yield new therapeutics for treating human diseases and provide sustainable solutions for energy and materials.




Satyaki Rajavasireddy is a postdoc in Whitehead Institute Member Mary Gehring’s lab investigating regulation of gene expression in plants. 

Mike Torrens-Spence is a postdoc in Whitehead Institute Member Jing-Ke Weng’s lab investigating how plants make molecules of medicinal and agricultural interest and how to recreate those molecules using synthetic biology.

Read about the Research

Decades of pioneering plant research at Whitehead Institute have led to biological insights and useful discoveries

Merging the wisdom of traditional global medicine with modern approaches to understand plant specialized metabolism and harness its healing potential