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Elizabeth Ainsworth

Profile picture for Elizabeth Ainsworth

Contact Information

1201 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801


Research Description

Plant physiological and molecular responses to global change, photosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism

Global changes in climate and atmospheric composition pose significant challenges to maintaining and improving future agricultural production and global food supply. Two global changes that directly affect crop productivity are rising carbon dioxide concentration and rising tropospheric ozone concentration. While elevated carbon dioxide stimulates photosynthesis and productivity of crops, rising tropospheric ozone negatively impacts photosynthesis and subsequent growth and production. The focus of my research is to understand and integrate the genetic, molecular, biochemical and physiological responses of plants to global change. This fundamental understanding is critical for identifying targets for breeding and biotechnology that may be exploited to maximize crop yields and plant productivity in the coming decades. As the population grows and the climate becomes more variable over this century, addressing these research challenges will be ever more important. We aim to better understand and address crop responses to global climate change by using meta-analyses to quantify the responses of plants to climate change factors, developing high-throughput tools for investigating molecular, biochemical and physiological responses of plants to climate change, and identifying the genes and loci underpinning intraspecific variation in the response of species to climate change. The ultimate aim of my research is to provide fundamental knowledge that will enable crop production to be maximized in a future world of elevated carbon dioxide concentration, elevated ozone concentration, higher temperatures and greater probability of drought stress.


B.S. University of California at Los Angeles
Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Humboldt Fellow, Juelich Research Center, Juelich, Germany

Awards and Honors

2019 NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences
2018 Presidential Award, Crop Science Society of America
2016, 2017 Thomson Reuters/Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers List
2016 Service Recognition Award, College of ACES, UIUC
2015 USDA ARS Outreach, Diversity and Equal Opportunity Award
2012 University Scholar, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
2012 Charles Albert Shull Award, American Society of Plant Biologists
2011 President’s Medal, Society for Experimental Biology
2011-2012 I.C. Gunsalus Scholar, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, UIUC
2009 USDA ARS Midwest Area Early Career Research Scientist of the Year Award

Additional Campus Affiliations

Professor, Crop Sciences
Professor, Plant Biology
Institute Affiliate, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
Center Affiliate, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)

Recent Publications

Adve, V. S., Wedow, J. M., Ainsworth, E. A., Chowdhary, G., Green-Miller, A., & Tucker, C. (2024). AIFARMS: Artificial intelligence for future agricultural resilience, management, and sustainability. AI Magazine, 45(1), 83-88.

Busch, F. A., Ainsworth, E. A., Amtmann, A., Cavanagh, A. P., Driever, S. M., Ferguson, J. N., Kromdijk, J., Lawson, T., Leakey, A. D. B., Matthews, J. S. A., Meacham-Hensold, K., Vath, R. L., Vialet-Chabrand, S., Walker, B. J., & Papanatsiou, M. (Accepted/In press). A guide to photosynthetic gas exchange measurements: Fundamental principles, best practice and potential pitfalls. Plant Cell and Environment.

Digrado, A., Montes, C. M., Baxter, I., & Ainsworth, E. A. (2024). Seed quality under elevated CO2 differs in soybean cultivars with contrasting yield responses. Global change biology, 30(2), Article e17170.

Guarin, J. R., Jägermeyr, J., Ainsworth, E. A., Oliveira, F. A. A., Asseng, S., Boote, K., Elliott, J., Emberson, L., Foster, I., Hoogenboom, G., Kelly, D., Ruane, A. C., & Sharps, K. (2024). Modeling the effects of tropospheric ozone on the growth and yield of global staple crops with DSSAT v4.8.0. Geoscientific Model Development, 17(7), 2547-2567.

Miner, G. L., Stewart, C. E., Delgado, J. A., Ippolito, J. A., Mason, R. E., Haley, S. D., Guttieri, M. J., Ainsworth, E. A., McGrath, J. M., & Beebout, S. J. (2024). Global change impacts on mineral nutritional quality of cereal grains: Coordinated datasets and analyses to advance a systems-based understanding. Field Crops Research, 310, Article 109338.

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