Jen Schmidt is a fifth-year PhD student in Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University with minors in plant biology and genetics.  Her M.S. and B.S. focused on the interplay between biology and the environment with particular interest in the role of engineering in solving global problems related to climate change and the demand for increased crop yields.  Jen has taken part in several research projects all aimed at some facet of improving plant growth or optimizing large-scale production of commercial crops.

            Jen’s PhD thesis uses chloroplast-engineered tobacco as a platform for production of high-value proteins for medical, agricultural, or industrial applications. On the molecular scale, she is focusing on improving regulation of transgenic gene expression.  At a broader scale, Jen is also fine-tuning nutrient inputs to optimize plant growth.

            Outside of the lab, Jen surrounds herself with plants.  She enjoys visiting National Parks, botanic gardens, and flower shows.  Jen also enjoys sharing her love of science, particularly of plants, through outreach events.  She runs a blog for orchid enthusiasts through, and writes more formal pieces for the American Orchid Society’s Orchids magazine. 

Research Areas:
Molecular Biology, Genetics, Physiology, Applied Plant Biology


Schmidt, J.A., McGrath, J.M., Hanson, M.R., Long, S.P. & Ahner, B.A. Field-grown tobacco plants maintain robust growth while accumulating large quantities of a bacterial cellulase in chloroplasts. Nature Plants 5, 715-721 (2019).

Volunteer Activities

Judy's Day: Plant-focused family educational outreach event run by Cornell Botanic Gardens

Kids' Science Day: hands-on science experiments geared towards introducing young children to the wonders of science

4H Career Exploration-Environmental Engineering: three-day event to introduce high school students from New York State to environmental engineering.

Feed My Starving Children - PackMobile event; prepare nutritious meals for children in impoverished areas.

Current Affiliations
Experience & Education