Mustafa Morsy, PhD


Associate Professor of Biology
Bibb Graves 214I
UWA Station 7
  • Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas, 2005
Professional Bio:
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Plant Biology Division, February 2007-July 2011
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, February 2005-January 2007
  • Research Specialist, Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science, University of Arkansas, January 2002-December 2004
Employment Date: Fall 2011
Classes usually taught:


  • BY 472 Cell Biology
  • BY 380 Genetics
  • BY 375 Molecular and Microbial Biology
  • BY 101 Principles of Biology


  • BY-597-01 Directed Studies: Functional Genomics
  • BY597-12  Directed Studies: Plant Fungal Interaction
Academic/Research Interests:

My main research is focused on understanding how plants respond to environmental stresses. My lab is focused on abiotic stress tolerance acquired via symbiotic association between plants and microorganisms.

Additional UWA Assignments:

Science Saturdays Coordinator (


Undergraduate Research Symposium at Natural Sciences and Mathematics (URS@NSM), Chairman (

Current Projects:

Increased greenhouse gas emissions cause elevation of global temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns which significantly affects agricultural economics. Environmental factors such as heat, drought and increased soil salinity causes significant damage to most plant species, particularly in the summer months and in warm and temperate climates. For example, in 2011, the state of Texas alone suffered more than $5.2 billion in damage to agriculture products due to dry weather combined with elevated air temperatures. The global average temperature is predicted to increase 0.3 oC every 10 years, threatening the future of crop production. My main research is focused on understanding how plants respond to environmental stresses. There are two major themes in my lab: 

  • Characterization of the three-way symbiosis associated with plant heat tolerance: This project focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of the mutualistic association between panic grass (Dichanthelium lanuginosumi), that can survive temperatures of 65 oC because of symbiotic association with the fungal endophyte Curvularia protuberata carrying a mycovirus named Curvularia thermotolerance virus (CThTV).
  • Discovery of fungal endophytes associated with environmental stress tolerant plants in Alabama: The long-term objective of our research is to elucidate the survival mechanisms of plants growing under extreme natural habitat of Alabama. The ultimate goal is to apply locally identified fungi associated with stress tolerant wild plants into crop plants to improve their production and tolerance to environmental stresses.

I am strongly committed to training undergraduate students and to encouraging women and minority students to pursue careers in scientific research. If you are interested in our research please send me an email.

Recent Publications:
  • Morsy M. (2015). Microbial Symbionts: A Potential Bio-Boom. Journal of Investigative Genomics, Vol 2,  issue 1.

  • Vaghchhipawala ZE, Vasudevan B, Lee S, Morsy M, Mysore KS (2012) Agrobacterium May Delay Plant Nonhomologous End-Joining DNA Repair via XRCC4 to Favor T-DNA Integration. Plant Cell doi: http:/​/​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1105/​tpc.​112.​100495 

  • Morsy M, and Stewart J McD (2012) Expression profiling of two rice (Oryza sativa) genotypes differing in chilling tolerance using cDNA-AFLP. B.R. Wells Rice Research Studies.  R.J. Norman and K.A.K. Moldenhauer (editors). Arkansas Agriculture Experiment Station Research Series 600: 78-85

  • Feldman TS, Morsy M and Roossinck MJ (2012) Are communities of microbial symbionts more diverse than communities of macrobial hosts? Fungal Biology. 116: 465-477

  • Morsy M, Oswald J, He J, Tang Y, and Roossinck MJ (2010) Teasing apart a three-way symbiosis: transcriptome analyses of Curvularia protuberata in response to viral infection and heat stress. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 401: 225-230.

  • Morsy M, Gouthu S, Orchard S, Thorneycroft D, Harper J,  Mittler R, and Cushman C (2008) Charting Plant Interactomes: Possibilities and Challenges. Trends in Plant Sciences 13: 183-191.

Recent Presentations:
  •  Spears D. and Morsy M. (2015) Fungal Endophytes and their effect on Agricultural Production. NSF AL-EpSCOR meeting, Montgomery, AL, Jan. 291, 2015
  • Larkin A. and Morsy M. (2015) Tomato taste better with fungi added. NSF AL-EpSCOR meeting, Montgomery, AL, Jan. 291, 2015
  • Clecker B, Armuelles H, Bonham C, and Morsy M (2014) Bio-Boom: Enhancing crop production using habitat specific fungal endophytes.  American Society of Plant Biologist, Portland, OR, Jul 1114.
  • Wooley S, Deluca M, Ware-Gilmore F, and Morsy M (2014) The Small World Initiative:  An antibiotic discovery-based Freshmen Course. American Society for Microbiology Meeting, Boston, MA, May 1720.
  • Knight K, Bonham C, Armuelles H, and Morsy M (2014) Symbiotic endophytes could improve crop production. National Conference on Undergraduate Research Council, Lexington, KY, Apr 3-5.

Other recent notable works:
  • Associate editor of BMC Research Notes
  • Recipient of the Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award, 2012
  • A developer and partner in Yale Small World Initiative, 1 of 24 nationwide biology educators, 2013

Additional Websites