Energy Center

Rick Meilan

Contact Information

Pfendler Hall G021E
department of Forestry and Natural Resources
715 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907


Rick Meilan received a joint Ph.D. in Forestry (emphasis in tree physiology) and Botany (emphasis in plant molecular biology) from Iowa State University in 1990. After working as a Rockefeller Foundation-funded post-doctoral research fellow, he joined the faculty in Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He was on the faculty in the Forest Science Department at Oregon State University for nine years before going to Purdue University (PU) in October 2003. At PU, he is an Associate Professor of Molecular Tree Physiology and the Associate Director of the Center for Tree Genetics, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program.

In his laboratory at Purdue, Meilan uses molecular tools to investigate the genetic mechanisms by which key aspects of tree growth and development are controlled. He is also attempting to domesticate and add value to various tree species by genetically engineering them to express genes that impart environmentally beneficial and commercially important traits. Active research projects include efforts to insert genes that control flowering, as a means of transgene confinement; insect (Emerald Ash Borer) resistance; herbicide tolerance; and lignin composition. He and his group are also trying to identify genes that regulate the transition from sapwood to heartwood, the formation of figured wood, and the initiation of lateral and adventitious roots. 

Meilan also has extensive experience with field studies. Over the past 10 years, he has conducted 24 transgenic field trials that were in strict compliance with all federal, state, and local requirements. This effort involved the filing of 50 USDA-APHIS notifications and two permit applications. He has also given testimony at public hearings regarding the commercial deployment of transgenic plants, and has moderated a session and delivered a prepared statement at the Forest and Fruit Tree Biotechnology Workshop that was hosted by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). This meeting was convened to obtain public input on the regulations needed for commercial deployment of transgenic trees.  


Expertise: Regulation of the transition to heartwood formation in hardwoods 
Genes involved in controlling the production of figure wood 
Genetically engineered pest resistance 
Flowering control 




B.S., Forest Science, Humboldt State University, 1979 
M.S., Forestry, Humboldt State University, 1985
Ph.D., Botany (Physiology and Molecular Biology) and Forestry (Forest Biology) (with honors), Iowa State University, 1990


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