Beronda L. Montgomery

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Speaker Term:  July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2019


Beronda L. Montgomery (term: 7/1/17 through 6/30/19)       

DOE Plant Research Laboratory

Michigan State University

612 Wilson Road, Room 106

East Lansing, MI 48824


Phone: 517-353-7802

Fax:     517-353-9168



Speaker’s Website:



Primary Division        H         Genetics & Molecular Biology

Secondary Division    K         Microbial Physiology & Metabolism         




Seeing the Light: Color Vision and Developmental Acclimation in Cyanobacteria  

Photosynthetic organisms exhibit finely tuned abilities to sense and respond to changes in their ambient environment. As light is used to drive photosynthesis, which results in the production of chemical energy and important reductants, the perception of light and the resulting physiological and developmental changes that occur are among the most important adaptations in these organisms. Cyanobacteria respond to changes in light in a process known as chromatic acclimation, which tunes physiology and photosynthetic pigmentation to light cues. The photoreceptors and associated signaling pathways used to tune cellular responses and thus organismal fitness in cyanobacteria are described.


First Insight into Second Messengers: Roles of Cyclic Dinucleotides in Environmental Responses in Cyanobacteria  

Cyclic dinucleotides have only recently been investigated as second messengers in photosynthetic bacteria, including cyanobacteria. Photosynthetic organisms, such as cyanobacteria, are sensitive to changes in the light environment, a response which is linked to their ability to use light energy for production of chemical energy in the form of sugars. Recent studies indicated that second messengers are key molecules used by cyanobacteria to adapt to changes in the external environment. Ongoing studies in the Montgomery lab are providing significant insight into the roles of these second messengers in regulating life styles and evolution of cyanobacterial strains and providing tools for use in biotechnological or optogenetic applications.    


Shaping Up: Photoregulation of Cellular Morphology in Cyanobacteria  

Photosynthetic organisms depend upon light for carbon fixation and production of reductant. Thus, the ability to adapt to changes in the photoenvironment is critical. Some cyanobacteria alter the shape and volume of their cells in response to changes in ambient light, including changes in light intensity and predominant wavelengths or colors of light available. In this talk, the distinct molecular mechanisms used by these organisms to “shape up” in response to light are discussed, including parallels to known bacterial morphogenesis-regulating mechanisms and novel means used by cyanobacteria.


Lighting the Way: Building Bridges to Access and Success  

This topic involves translating the lessons that have emerged from investigating the specific ways in which largely immobile organisms adapt their patterns of growth and development to fluctuations in external environmental parameters to increase their survival and productivity to mentoring and professional development interventions. These lessons are intended to inform practices that promote the success of students and junior faculty in academic sciences. Discussed are evidence-based practices for supporting the comprehensive development of a diverse range of students and postdoctoral scientists as experimentalists, scientific thinkers and future independent scientists and practitioners.                                            


Cultivating a Career: From Seeds of Inspiration to a Harvest of Discovery, Mentoring & Transformation  

The cultivation of an integrated career that supports progressive research, education and service requires planning, strategic and intentional engagement of mentors, and career envisioning. I describe my path to date which has included key branch points that have advanced my core research in photobiology, while providing complementary opportunities to acquire new skills and integrate engagement in mentoring and leadership scholarship.   


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH – Beronda L. Montgomery

Dr. Beronda Montgomery completed doctoral studies at the University of California, Davis and was a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University. She is MSU Foundation Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics in the Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory and Assistant Provost for Faculty Development – Research at Michigan State University. Dr. Montgomery’s laboratory investigates the mechanisms by which organisms such as plants and cyanobacteria which have limited mobility are able to monitor and adjust to changes in their external environment. The ability of these largely immobile organisms to adapt their patterns of growth and development to fluctuations in external environmental parameters, such as light and nutrient availability, increases their survival and maximizes their growth and productivity. Dr. Montgomery also conducts scholarship and training initiatives on mentoring, including issues related to mentoring diverse students and junior scientists, as well as faculty development. Her scholarly efforts have been recognized by receipt of an NSF CAREER Award, selection as a finalist in the 2014 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professors Competition, and as 2015 Michigan State University Nominee for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) U.S. Professor of the Year Award.


CV is available by request from at ASM Headquarters   



Participation in the ASMDL program provides new opportunities for me to engage with the microbiology community as a scientist-educator. It has been my long-standing career philosophy to build a competitive research program, while simultaneously ensuring that the research and training environment provides the highest level of evidence-based mentoring to ensure success of each of the individuals with whom I have the privilege to work. In these efforts, my group has developed robust research to understand dynamic molecular processes used by photosynthetic organisms to adapt to changes in their environment. As a part of my efforts to promote research excellence and sustained mentoring of scientists, including a targeted focus on those individuals from groups underrepresented in academe, I served for six years as Chair of the Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship and Professional Development Programs. Initially largely an ASM fellowship program, the Watkins Fellowship grew into a comprehensive academic and professional development program for sustained exposure of doctoral students to diverse career opportunities, long-term engagement of individuals in supportive career networks, and the provision of progressive mentoring under my leadership. Additionally, I served as founding chair of the steering committee and co-PI of a NSF-funded structured mentoring effort with ASM. In additional efforts in support of graduate students and postdocs, I serve as a mentor training specialist and as a consultant with several national graduate and postdoctoral training programs and academic institutions on issues related to mentoring diverse students and junior scientists, as well as development and support of faculty.

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