Sharman O'Neill

image of Sharman O'Neill



Plant Biology

Offices and Labs

2253 Life Sciences
(530) 752-2435
2154 Life Sciences
(530) 752-5446


1982 PhD Cornell University
1975 MA Smith College

Research Contribution

GMSC The Vanilla Sustainability Project (2011-2013) Founding Director, UC Davis' Responsible Conduct of Research Program (2004-2009); Commissioner for City of Davis' City-UCD Student Liaison Commission (2004-2009); Founding Director, Training Grant Support Services, Office of Graduate Studies (2003-2009). American Society of Plant Biologists Excellence in Education Award Committee (2005-2013)

Research Interests

Plant Reproduction, Development and Biodiversity

Our research focuses on the molecular basis of plant reproductive development and shoot apical meristem development. My laboratory has focused on three major areas: (1) analysis of the role of key homeobox genes, such as ATML1 and WUSHEL, and hormones (auxin) during post-zygotic plant growth and development using the model genetic system Arabidopsis, (2) pollination of flowers and postpollination ovary and fruit development using Phalaenopsis and Vanilla orchids (Orchidaceae), and (3) the photoperiodic control of flowering in the photoperiodic short-day plant, Pharbitis nil, the Japanese morning glory. Currently, we are engaged in multidisciplinary collaborative research on Vanilla planifolia and its Mesoamerican wild crop relatives (Vanilloideae, Orchidaceae) to study flower and fruit development, disease resistance (Fusarium), and critical issues facing small-holder farmers in food insecure and impoverished developing nations. We also maintain a collection of rare and endangered Vanilla species, including Vanilla planifolia wild-crop germplasm collected from the region of its evolutionary origin and related Vanilla species of Mesoamerican and South American origin.


NIOC Scientific Research Award, 1994
General Mills Vanilla Sustainability Challenge Award, 2011
National Science Foundation Research Fellowship Award, 1984-1988

Department and Center Affiliations

Department of Plant Biology
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Center for Plant Diversity
Center for Seed Biotechnology
Vanilla Genetic Diversity Center


American Society of Plant Biologists
Society for Developmental Biology
Association for Practical and Professional Ethics
Kennedy Institute of Ethics
Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science
McNair Scholars Program

CBS Grad Group Affiliations

Plant Biology

Specialties / Focus

Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Reproductive Biology
Plant Biology
  • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Genomics

Graduate Groups not Housed in CBS

AgCHEM: Agricultural & Environmental Chemistry
Horticulture and Agronomy


O'Neill Lab Group
  • Graduate Students: Spencer Little Undergraduate Research Interns: Caprice Lee, Garrett Cunha, Hailey Harrell, Jaspreet Thandi, Jennifer Poore, Lara Cemo, Matt Oakley, Michael Drabinsky, Nathan Gonsalez

Field Sites

Vanilla Genetic Diversity Center

Teaching Interests

Genetics, Genomics, Reproduction, Developmental Anatomy


Genetics BIS101 Genes and Gene Expression (Winter Quarter)
Plants PLB105 Developmental Plant Anatomy (Fall Quarter)
Genomics BIS098 Nutritional Genomics (Spring Quarter)

Personal Interests

Biodiversity and Genetic Resource Conservation
Sustainable Agriculture
Responsible Conduct of Research and Ethics
Civic and Community Service
Art Museums and Art Conservation
Botanical and Landscape Art
Orchid Conservation, Diversity and Evolution website


5/21/2010 9:26:34 AM
  • Su, HS, Zhao, XY, Liu, YB, Zhang, CL, O’Neill, SD, and Zhang, XS (2009) Auxin-induced WUS expression is essential for somatic embryogenesis in Arabidopsis. The Plant Journal doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2009.03880.x..
  • Zheng, CC, Potter, D., and O’Neill, S.D. (2009) Phytochrome gene expression and phylogenetic analysis in the short-day plant Pharbitis nil Choisy (Convolvulaceae): differential regulation by light and an endogenous clock. American Journal of Botany 96:1319-1336.
  • Lu, P., Porat, R., Nadeau, J. A. and O’Neill, S. D. 1996. Identification of a meristem L1 layer-specific gene in Arabidopsis that is expressed during embryonic pattern formation and defines a new class of homeobox genes. The Plant Cell 8: 2155-2168.
  • Porat, R., Lu, P., and O’Neill, S. D. 1998. Arabidopsis SKP1, a homologue of a cell cycle regulator gene, is predominantly expressed in meristematic cells. Planta 204: 345-351.
  • Nadeau, JA, Zhang, XS, Li, J, and O'Neill, SD. 1996. Ovule development: identification of stage-specific and tissue-specific cDNAs. The Plant Cell 8:213-239.
  • Zhang, XS, and O'Neill, SD. 1993. Ovary and gametophyte development are coordinately regulated by auxin and ethylene following pollination. The Plant Cell 5:403-418
  • Porat, R, Nadeau, JA, Kirby, J, Sutter, E, and O’Neill, SD. 1998. Characterization of the primary pollination signal in the postpollination syndrome of Phalaenopsis flowers. Plant Growth Regul. 24:109-117