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Dr. Ning Zhang



I am a fungal biologist and have been studying various groups of Fungi, the second largest kingdom of eukaryotic life. An estimated 1.5 million species of Fungi comprise a diverse group of organisms that have vital functions as decomposers, pathogens, and as components of other symbioses in biomes, but after two centuries of active study, only about 10 % of these prognosticated fungal species have been discovered by scientists. Plant-fungus symbiotic associations are very common but many plant associated fungal communities have not been sampled. Huge gaps persist in our understanding of fungal biodiversity, evolution and function. My long-term goal is to contribute to resolving vital principles for the study of evolution, biodiversity and functions of Fungi, especially those that are associated with grasses.
I have three primary research interests that are intrinsically linked to each other:

  1. Fungal systematics and evolution; We currently are working on taxonomy, biodiversity and genomics for Magnaporthales, an ascomyceteous fungal order that contains several important plant pathogens, including the rice blast fungus take-all pathogen of cereals, and the summer patch pathogen of turfgrass. We have been building a publicly accessible: e-monograph of Magnaporthales fungi (, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. This monograph includes all accepted species names in Magnaporthales; species description, diagnostic illustration, type designation, host range, and geographical distribution for representative taxa; Genbank accession numbers for DNA barcode and other genes, links to the genome databases; and dichotomous keys. The Magnaporthales e-monograph provides free access on updated taxonomic, biogeography and molecular data to researchers and the broader user communities worldwide, and aims to facilitate the future work on systematics, biodiversity, evolution, genetics, plant protection and quarantine. Other useful links include the Fungal Genome Initiative ( and the Magnaporthales Names Blog (
  2. Fungal biodiversity and their functional role in the ecosystem;
    1. Biodiversity, DNA barcoding, and functions of fungi in Pine Barrens and other ecosystems
    2. Exploring and evaluating the significance of root-associated fungi and microbes to switchgrass production
  3. Development of novel molecular methods for rapid diagnosis of pathogenic fungi.
    New pathogens are emerging all the time and many known pathogens are fast evolving due to dramatic climate change, host switching, and frequent transportation by humans. I am interested in developing new molecular methods for rapid pathogen detection and identification. We are currently developing a Turf PathoCHIP (array based method) and real-time PCR for turfgrass and other plant pathogens.

Title and Address

Department of Plant Biology
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences,
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Primary Focus Area: Fungal biodiversity, evolution and functions
Secondary Focus Area: Fungal genomics, microbiome, molecular detection of fungal pathogens on turfgrass

Lab members:
Peninah Feldman (2017-present) PhD student
Glen Groben (2016-present) PhD student
Molly Bindell (September 2011-present) PhD student
Liang Cheng (September 2011-2015, graduated) MS student
Dr. Jing Luo (September 2011-present)
Nimmi Rajmohan (graduated 2012) co-advised PhD student
Stephen Miller (December 2009-2015, Graduated) PhD student
Dr. Evans Njambere (November 2009-November 2012, now in DuPont)
Emily Walsh (November 2009-present) Lab technician
Shuang Zhao (September 2009-September 2011) co-advised PhD student
Suli Hu (February 2009-October 2009) technician

Undergraduate students:
Sanjana Kirloskar (January 2009-August 2009), Biotechnology Major, Rutgers.
Sirrika Samuels (February 2009-present), Animal Science Major, Rutgers.
Davis Huang (Fall 2009), Arts in Biological Sciences, Rutgers.
Janna Fernandez (Spring 2010), Biochemistry, Rutgers.
Sarah Chen (Summer 2010, Summer 2011), Biological Sciences, Rutgers.
Hanis Hambali (Fall 2010), Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Adila Adenan (Fall 2010), Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Megha Master (Fall 2010, Spring 2011), Biochemistry, Rutgers.
Niranjani Venkateswaran (Spring 2011). Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Xuan Wang (Summer 2011). Biology, Univ. Pittsburg.
Eli Gabay (Summer 2011). Biotechnology, Rutgers.
William Ruszenski (Summer 2011), Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Nurliyana Azhar (Summer 2012), Biochemistry, Rutgers.
Divwya Nair (Summer, Fall, 2012, spring 2013), Bioinformatics, Rutgers.
Abhishek Naik (Summer, Fall 2013) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Faisal Zia (Summer, Fall 2013) Bioinformatics, Rutgers.
Brian Sereni (Summer, 2013) Bioinformatics, Rutgers.
Thomas Preteroti (Fall, 2013) Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Rutgers.
David Blystone (Summer 2014) Plant Science, Rutgers.
Kamal Naphri (Summer 2015) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Maryam Mehdi (Summer 2015) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Adam Scalera (Summer, Fall 2016) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Daniel Alwan (Summer 2016) Microbiology, Rutgers.
Swapneel Khiste (Summer, Fall 2016) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Kevin Guerrero (Summer, 2016) Rutgers.
Sana Sajjad (Spring and Fall 2017) Rutgers.
Sarah Fichot (Fall 2017) Biochemistry, Rutgers.
Christopher Psomias (Summer, 2018) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Wassim Zakkour (Summer, 2018) Biotechnology, Rutgers.
Andrew Costa (Fall, 2018). Biotechnology, Rutgers.