Assistant Professor, Department of Cell & Systems Biology
Shelley Lumba is an assistant professor in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology. She was educated at the University of Toronto, from which she earned a PhD in 2007.
Lumba is motivated to seek an understanding of how organisms from completely different kingdoms communicate through a common “language of life.” Her research group seeks to understand the molecular dialogue between organisms in the soil. Specifically, the group studies how plants communicate with fungi and other plants through small molecules called strigolactones (SLs). Plants use SLs to attract fungi to form a symbiotic interaction, while parasitic plants like witchweed have evolved to "eavesdrop" on this signal to start their lifecycle and parasitize a nearby plant host. The United Nations considers witchweed to be the largest impediment to poverty alleviation in Africa. Understanding how both the plant and fungi respond to SLs would lead to novel strategies in the improvement of plant and soil health.
Lumba started her lab at the U of T as a principal investigator in 2016. Her research has received support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) under the Discovery Grant, Accelerator Supplement and RTI programs. Her proposal to map the dynamics of SL receptors was an inaugural winner of the New Frontiers in Research Fund Exploration competition. Lumba’s group has published their recent work in Nature Plants and PNAS.