Maria Elena Zavala

Picture of Prof. Maria Elena Zavala
(818) 677-3342
Office location:
Citrus Hall 3207



Ph.D. University of California, Berkley

Research Specialties

I use plants as model systems to investigate problems in development and growth. Development proceeds in an orderly sequence and is the result of genes being turned on and off in a coordinated fashion. I am interested in understanding the regulation of gene expression on a cellular and tissue level. My students study how roots growl We have focused our attention on a cluster of cells, the quiescent center, that appear to be directly involved in maintaining normal growth and function. These cells provide progenitor cells for the surrounding meristems. We would like to know if the lines of communication are altered during growth and development and how new lines are maintained. We are also working on the types of signals involved in stimulating the development of new meristems in root tissue. These studies will help us understand how normal root growth is regulated and will allow us to gain an insight into the how cells become specialized and maintain their specialization.


Representative publications

1. Zavala, M.E., D.D. Biesboer, and P.G. Mahlberg. I983. Callus induction and organogenesis on cultured tissues of guayule, Parthenium argentatum Gray (Compositae).Guayule: Third International Guayule Conference, eds. E. Gregg, J. Tipton and H.Huang. Guayule Rubber Soc. Los Angeles.

2 Zavala, M.E. D.D. Biesboer, and P.G. Mahlberg. 1983. Callus induction and organogenesis in cultured tissue of guayule (Parthenium argentatum Gray). Phytomorphology 32:340344.

3. Zavala, M.E. and D.L. Brandon. 1983. Localization of a phytohormone using immunocytochemistry. J. Cell Biol. 97:123539.

4. Zavala, M.E. and B.J. Finkle. 1983. Ultrastructural changes in cultured sugarcane cells following the addition of cryoprotectants at two temperatures. CryoLetters 4:3718O.

5. Finkle, B.J., M.E. Zavala, and J.M. Ulrich. 1984. Cryoprotective compounds in the viable freezing of plant tissues. Cryopreservation of Plant Tissues, ed. K.K. Kartha. C.R.C. Publication, Boca Raton.

6. Zavala, M.E. and I.M. Sussex. 1986. Survival of developing wheat embryos and bean axes following cryoprotection and freezing in liquid nitrogen. J. Plant Physiol. 122:193197.

7. Brandon, D.L., J. Corse, P.C. Higaki, and M.E. Zavala. 1992. Monoclonal antibodies for analysis of cytokinins O-glucosides in response to cold stress. Physiology and Biochemistry of Cytokinins in Plants, (eds) Kaminek, Mok, and Zazimalova. Academic Press, The Hague. pp447-453.

8. Brunick, L., C.Y. Martinez, J.L. Sosa, D.H. Mishkin, M.D. Brush and M.E. Zavala. 1996. Poly-A-Tales. Bio-Consumer Review 3: 68-79.

9. Li, R., J.L. Sosa, and M.E. Zavala. 2000. Accumulation of O-glycosyltransferase in Phaseolus vulgaris and Zea mays following cold stress. Plant Growth Regulation 32:295-305.

10. Zavala, M.E. 2001 Tracking Students. Planning an Effective Program Evaluation. (Eds.) Marsha Lakes Maytas and Estrella M. Triana. Pubs. Amer. Physiol. Soc.

11. Zavala, M.E. 2003. U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Equity and Participation. Pan- Organizational Summit on the U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce. National Academies, NA Press. Pp 188-194.

12. AAAS Vision and Change in Biology Undergraduate Education. Advisory committee and reviewer of the outputs.

13. Mica Estrada, Myra Burnett, Andrew G. Campbell, Patricia B. Campbell, Wilfred F. Denetclaw, Carlos G. Gutiérrez, Sylvia Hurtado, Gilbert H. John, John Matsui, Richard McGee, Camellia Moses Okpodu, T. Joan Robinson, Michael F. Summers, Maggie Werner-Washburne, and M.E. Zavala. 2016. Improving Underrepresented Minority Student Persistence in STEM. in STEM. CBE Life Sci Educ September 1, 2016 15:es5 16-01-0038 September 1, 2016 15:es516-01-0038

14. Verónica A. Segarra, M.E. Zavala, and Latanya Hammonds-die, 2017 Applied Theatre Facilitates Dialogue about Career Challenges for Scientists. J MBE DOI:

15. Christine A. Sorkness, 1 Christine Pfund,1 Elizabeth O. Ofili,2 Kolawole S. Okuyemi,3 Jamboor K. Vishwanatha,4 on behalf of the NRMN team, Maria Elena Zavala, Theresa Pesavento, Mary Fernandez, Anthony Tissera, Alp Deveci, Damaris Javier, Alexis Short, Paige Cooper, Harlan Jones, Spero Manson, Dedra Buchwald, Kristin Eide, Andrea Gouldy, Erin Kelly, Nicole Langford, Richard McGee, Clifford Steer, Thad Unold, Anne Marie Weber-Main, Adriana Báez, Jonathan Stiles, Priscilla Pemu, Winston Thompson, Judith Gwathmey, Kimberly Lawson, Japera Johnson, Meldra Hall, Douglas Paulsen, Mona Fouad, Ann Smith, Rafael Luna, Donald Wilson, Greg Adelsberger, Drew Simenson, Abby Cook, Monica Feliu‐Mojer, Eileen Harwood, Amy Jones, Janet Branchaw, Stephen Thomas, Amanda Butz, Angela Byars‐Winston, Stephanie House, Melissa McDaniels, Sandra Quinn, Jenna Rogers, Kim Spencer, Emily Utzerath, and Veronica Womack. 2017. A new approach to mentoring for research careers: the National Research Mentoring Network. BMC Procv.11 (Suppl 12); 2017 PMC5773914. Published online 2017 Dec4. doi: 10.1186/s12919-017-0083-8.

16. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 2018. The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Doi:https://doi.prg/10172226/25008

17. Oppenheimer, S.B. J.I. Mills, A. Zakeri, T. Payte, A.Lidgi, M.E. Zavala. 2020. An Approach to Improving Student Success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics(STEM) Career Pathways. Ethn Dis.2020;30(1):33-40; doi:10.18865/ed.30.1.33

18. Segarra, V.A., S. Blatch, M. Boyce, F. Carrero-Martinez, R. J. Aguilera, M.J. Leibowitz, M.E. Zavala, L. Hammonds-Odie, A. Edwards.2020. Scientific Societies Advancing STEM Workforce Diversity: Lessons and Outcomes from the Minorities Affairs Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology. JMBE. DOI:

19. Segarra V., L.Vega, C. Primus, C. Etson, A. Guillory, A. Edwards, S. Flores, C. Fry, S.Ingram, M. Lawson, R. McGee, S. Paxson, L. Phelan, K. Suggs, E.Vuong, L. Hammonds-Odie, M. Leibowitz, M.E. Zavala, J. L. Lujan, and M. Ramirez-Alvarado. 2020. Scientific Societies Fostering Inclusive Scientific Environments through Travel Awards: Current Practices and Recommendations. CBE-LSE IN PRESS


Public Science.
I have a long history of working to promote science to lay and K-12 students:

1. Zavala, MariaElena. 1999. Plant Growth Regulators. Science On Line
3. Zavala, MariaElena. January 2000-December 2001. SACNAS President Letters to SACNAS members.
4. Zavala, MariaElena. 2006. Haciendo Caras. (In) Flor y Ciencia: Chicanas in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering. (ed.) Norma Cantu AAAS Press.
5. Zavala, MariaElena. 2008. Haciendo Caras. (In) Paths to Discovery: Autobiographies from Chicanas with Careers in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering. (ed.) Norma Cantu. UCLA Chicano Press

Abstracts: 33 since 2000. The majority of them with student researchers as co-authors.


Recent Master's Students

1. Changes in cytokinins in Zea mays root tips in response to cold stress. Pauline C. Higaki. (1990).

2. Effects of cytokinins in Zea mays roots. Dale H. Mishkin. (1992).

3. The role of abscisic acid in cold stress response of Zea mays root tips. Catherine S. Randall. (1993).