Our Research

The Renner Lab explores evolutionary patterns and processes that drive functional diversification. We use plants and insects as models to study adaptation and current projects examine the underlying genetics and evolution of chemical and structural defense mechanisms.

We seek to understand how organisms acquire novel phenotypes through co-option of existing genes, tissues, and organs. Specifically, we investigate the role, regulation, and diversity of chemical defense genes, and examine the evolution of multi-step enzyme-catalyzed pathways that form defensive compounds in specialized tissues and organs.

Our research combines experimental biology with whole genome sequencing, transcriptomics, phylogenetics, biochemistry, and morphology.



September 1, 2021

Postdoctoral Scholar in Plant Molecular Biology

The laboratory of Tanya Renner at The Pennsylvania State University is seeking a post-doctoral scholar research associate to study carnivorous plant molecular biology and evolution. The successful applicant will participate in the research project “Conferring carnivorous plant-like traits by single gene transfers”, in which multiple aspects of carnivorous plant biology will be studied by combining genomics, plant molecular biology, and biomechanics. The position is part of a Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP)-funded project involving the laboratories of Dr. Tanya Renner (The Pennsylvania State University, USA), Dr. Kenji Fukushima (University of Würzburg, Germany), and Dr. Ulrike Bauer (University of Bristol, UK). In collaboration with the labs of Dr. Fukushima and Dr. Ulrike, we will analyze how carnivory-related traits are regulated and test what happens when the traits are transferred to other plants. The successful applicant of this position is expected to characterize the digestive fluid proteomes of various carnivorous plants, aid in transcriptome analyses of carnivorous plant gene expression, as well as to transfer genes involved in prey digestion to model and crop plants to study their ability to improve resistance against herbivorous insects and microbial pathogens.

As part of their application, interested candidates should include a letter of interest, a resume, and contact information for 2-3 professional references. Review of applications will begin September 1, 2021, but applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Preferred start date: October 1, 2021, but this date is negotiable. Questions about the position should be directed to Dr. Tanya Renner, email: Click here to learn more about the position and to apply.


Recent Publications

Gilbert, K.J. & Renner, T. Acid or base? How do plants regulate the ecology of their phylloplane? 2021. AoB PLANTS. doi:

Rork, A.M., Xu, S., Attygalle, A., & Renner, T. Primary metabolism co-opted for defensive chemical production in the carabid beetle, Harpalus pensylvanicus. 2021. J Chem Ecol. doi:


Media Releases

The Symbiotic Podcast: Rule-breakers of the Plant World

WTAJ Originals: Beetles use chemicals to ward off predators



Renner Laboratory
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Entomology
520 ASI Building
University Park, PA 16802


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