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  • B.S., University of California, Santa Cruz, 1971
  • Ph.D., UCLA, 1980

More Information

Dr. Wurtele, Professor Emeritus, received her B.S. in Biology from the University of California-Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D. in Biology from the UCLA. After serving as a postdoctoral fellow at UC-Davis and Senior Research Scientist at NPI, Inc., Dr. Wurtele joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 1988.  In 1999, she organized the first Plant Science Institute symposia series at ISU. She was awarded the Pioneer Dupont Award for Iowa Woman of Research Innovation and Leadership in 2012.  She directs the Plant/Eukaryotic and Microbial Systems Resource (PMR).

Research Description

Dr. Wurtele’s research, juxtaposed at the interface between biology and computational sciences, centers on the interplay between the metabolic and regulatory signals: the metabolic network of plants. The Wurtele group is using an integrated experimental/biocomputational approach to understand the factors that regulate plant development and composition. This research is revealing a complex network that incorporates genes of previously unknown function that mediates the accumulation of proteins, starches and oils in plant leaves and seeds. Further, it has enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms of synthesis of unusual medicinal compounds. A practical consequence is that it provides new approaches to engineer plants, a biorenewable energy source, and microorganisms to accumulate large quantities of industrially-useful chemicals, and improve our food supply.

Dr. Wurtele and colleagues have developed the award-winning videogame, Meta!Blast. Meta!Blast takes the player into an metabolic adventure within a 3D photosynthetic cell.

Recent Meta!Blast awards include:

  • Meta!Blast 3D interactive application for cell and metabolic biology. Level 1: the cell.  Honorable mention 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. Featured in: Science 335:533.
  • Featured at the 2012 American Association for Advancement of Science Annual Meeting
  • International Science and Engineering Challenge Finalist, Illustration (The Cytosol). Science Magazine and National Science Foundation.
  • Meta!Blast Won the People’s Choice Award
    in SciVis 2013
    Science Magazine and National Science Foundation
    Featured in Science, 2014 Feb


Pub Med Link to all publications