Jaswinder Singh

Image by Alex Tran.

Associate Professor 

Associate Member, McGill School of Environment

T: 514-398-7906  | jaswinder.singh [at] mcgill.ca (Email) |  Raymond Building, R2-026D  |  Curriculum VitaeWebsite  | Twitter: @jaswinderMcGill  |  LinkedIn  |  Genome Editing for Food Security and Environmental Sustainability (GEFSES), NSERC-CREATE Program


BSc, MSc (Punjab Agricultural University)
PhD (University of Sydney)

Short Bio

Dr. Jaswinder Singh is as an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Science, McGill University, Canada. He is also a member of an Executive Committee of his Department and Associate Member of the Bieler School of Environment. After completing his PhD from the University of Sydney and CSIRO, Canberra Australia, he did his postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on genomics, molecular breeding and biotechnological approaches. His findings have shown for the first time the reversal of epigenetic silencing. His laboratory is actively researching precocious germination from a unique perspective and discovered novel barley genes associated with Pre-Harvest Sprouting (PHS) and β-glucan activity. His team is also working on cysteine- rich proteins, redox regulation and transcription factors involved in different plant phase transitions. He teaches “Plant Breeding” and “Biotechnology” courses. He is the Director of the multi-institutional NSERC-CREATE program on the “Genome Editing for Food Security and Environmental Sustainability”. He has published 65 research articles in peer reviewed journals, books & conference proceedings, and delivered more than 60 invited talks and keynote lectures in renowned academic institutes and international meetings. To date, he has trained more than 50 researchers including undergraduate, technicians, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. He is also an acclaimed researcher, receiving accolades such as the prestigious C. D. Nelson award in 2018 for his outstanding contribution to plant biology. In 2020, he was identified as one of the top 50 McGill Professors for envisioning the future over the coming decades and participated in Video for McGill Bicentennial Digital Time Capsule.

Awards and Recognitions

  1. Recognized with prestigious C. D. Nelson Award (2018) for outstanding contribution to plant biology innovations (http://www.cspb-scbv.ca/awards_nelson.shtml)
  2. President, Canadian Society of Agronomy (President Elect-2017-2018; President -2018-19; Past President 2019-20) http://agronomycanada.com/
  3. Board of Directors, Plant Canada (2018-2020) http://www.plantcanada.ca/
  4. Identified as one of the top 50 McGill Professors for envisioning the future over the coming decades (2020); Video participation- McGill Bicentennial Digital Time Capsule
  5. Member, Executive Committee, Department of Plant Science (2020- )
  6. Member, C. D. Nelson Award Committee, Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (2020-2023)
  7. Member, D. S. Brar Memorial Award Committee, Khush Foundation (2021) www.khushfoundation.org
  8. Academic Editor, PLOS ONE (2015-)
  9. Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Plant Science (2010-2018)
  10. Co-chair, CSA-CSHS joint Conference (2016)
  11. Chair, Gleb Krotkov award committee, Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (2019)
  12. Co-chair, Canadian Plant Biotechnology Conference (2014)
  13. DuPont Young Professor Award nominations (2012, 2013)
  14. Membership Officer- Canadian Association of Plant Biotechnology (2013-2014)
  15. Eastern Director, Canadian Society of Agronomy (2010-2012)
  16. Nominated for Macdonald Campus Teaching Excellence Award (2013)
  17. Chair, award committee, Canadian Society of Agronomy (2019)
  18. Member, award committee, Canadian Society of Agronomy (2017)
  19. Associate Member of the Prairie Recommending Committee for Oat and Barley

International Activities

  • Active research collaboration with cereal scientists at CIMMYT, ICRISAT, IIT, AAFC, IPK Gatersleben, USDA, UC Berkeley
  • Member PanOat International consortium (2020-)
  • Member, Enid MacRobbie corresponding membership award committee Corresponding membership award committee, American Society of Plant Biologists (Oct 2019- Oct 2023)
  • Member, Program Committee, 8th International Crop Science Congress, to be held on June 21-25, 2020 (2019)
  • Chair, Lab to Field Symposium, American Society of Plant Biologists annual meeting (2018)
  • Member, McGill delegation to setup new collaboration with OCP and UM6P, Morocco (2019).
  • International Team Member, Oat Rust Forum (ORF) -Novel Genetic Technology (NGT), University of Minnesota (2016- present)
  • Member, peer review panel US Department of Energy for Systems Biology Research to Advance Sustainable Bioenergy Crop Development (2015)
  • Member, International Committee, American Society of Plant Biologists (2012-2015)
  • Member, Scientific Committee, 12th Congress of the European Society for Agronomy, Helsinki, Finland (2012)
  • Member, International Planning Committee, Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Water Management (ISSWM) conference, LPU, India (2017)
  • Member, International Committee, 1st International Conference on Conventional and Modern Approaches in Plant Science (CMAPS-17), Lahore, Pakistan (2017)

Active Affiliations

  • The Canadian Society of Agronomy
  • The Canadian Society of Plant Biologists
  • The American Society of Plant Biologists
  • The Canadian Association of Plant Biotechnologists
  • National Association of Plant Breeder

Research Interests

Barley and oat crops generate significant revenue (~$2.0 Billion P/Y) for Canadian farms and industry. While both crops are used primarily for animal feed, their use for food and malt are increasingly important and generate substantial secondary value. Both barley and oat are consumed as whole grains and/or whole-grain ingredients and provide high levels of soluble fibre in the form of β-glucan: a compound recognized by Canadian, US and European health agencies as a factor in lowering blood cholesterol. Currently, most Canadian varieties of barley and oat are developed through time-consuming traditional breeding techniques. We are capitalizing on modern genome science, biotechnology and genomics-assisted breeding approaches to significantly improve crops with qualities needed to meet 21st century demands. Development of these world-class approaches for barley and oat improvement will further expand our competitive international position.

Current Research

My long-term research goal is to integrate molecular and genomic tools with plant biology to develop enhanced crop plants. In particular, I am interested to incorporate novel genes to add value to crop production by bridging the gap between molecular biology and plant breeding in a in a changing world. Conventional plant breeding has provided excellent resources for the development of new varieties and novel germplasm. Regardless of the value of the past contributions, classical breeding alone will not provide adequate breakthroughs to increase yield and quality, to solve the complex problems of biotic and abiotic stresses, and to understand plant growth, reproduction and grain development in climate change scenario. In the modern era, plant improvement seems vulnerable and inadequate without the contributions of the new tools of molecular biology and genomics. Genomics provides innovative, integrative approaches to study plant biochemistry, development and physiology irrespective of species reproduction barriers. Our work lay the foundation for unique methods of identify genes from wild and cultivated species for use in cereals improvement. In essence, we are creating plant-version of the fruit-fly by transforming barley and oat varieties with a special “jumping gene” called a transposon. Once introduced, this transposon is programmed to jump in and out of other genes, turning them on or off. We then grow many versions of these experimental genetic lines, observing what happens when different genes are turned on or off. When something interesting happens (e.g. improved lodging resistance) we will then identify the gene that caused this change by looking for the location of the transposon – much like a bookmark in a large novel.

Our experience in conventional plant breeding, genomics, biotechnology and proteomics encouraged me to develop such research programs aimed at creating future generation of crop plants by coupling plant breeding, genomics, gene-editing, epigenetics and molecular biology.

The major objectives of my research program are:

  • Development of new molecular breeding and genomics tools for enhancing value of cereals and grasses.
  • Exploration of cultivated and wild germplasm for the identification of novel genes, suitable for the next generation of crop plants.
  • Epigenetic regulation of transposable elements, stress responses and grain development.
  • Genetic regulation of beta-glucan (Dietary Fiber) in cereal grains.

Current research projects

  • Gene- Editing (via CRISPR) in small grain cereals
  • RdDM pathway, SQUAMOSA-promoter binding like (SPL) transcription factors, and Thaumatin-like sweet proteins (TLPs) in cereals
  • Transposon-mediated gene exploration in barley and other cereals
  • Oil content in Feld pea through breeding and genetic transformation

For more information about our current research please see Barley gene might hold a key to improving beer quality and Leaving the past behind

See news articles on our work:

  1. Barley breakthrough: Canadian researcher finds protein to lower β-glucan levels
  2. Crafting a Better Beer
  3. McGill discovery should save wheat farmers millions
  4. Plants display "molecular amnesia"
  5. https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/what-makes-certain-groups-more-vulnerable-covid-19-326681

Current Courses Taught

PLNT 435 Plant Breeding 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

PLNT 662 Adv in Plant Biotechnology 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

ANSC 691 Special Topic:Animal Sciences 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

FAES 401 Honours Research Project 1 6 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

FAES 402 Honours Research Project 2 6 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer


View current publications

Select Publications

Singer, S. D., Laurie, J. D., Bilichak, A., Kumar, S., Singh, J. (2021) Genetic variation and unintended risk in the context of old and new breeding techniques. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. DOI:10.1080/07352689.2021.1883826..

Tripathi, R. K., Aguirre, A., Singh, J. (2021) Genome-wide Analysis of Wall Associated Kinase (WAK) Gene Family in Barley. Genomics 113: 523-530.

Xu, W, Tucker, JR., Bekele, W., You, FM. Fu, Y-B., Khanal, R, Yao, Z., Singh, J., Boyle, B., Beattie, AD., Belzile, F., Mascher, M., Tinker, NA., Badea, A. (2021) Genome assembly of the Canadian two-row malting barley cultivar AAC Synergy. G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics, Volume 11, Issue 4, April 2021, jkab031, https://doi.org/10.1093/g3journal/jkab031

Singh, J., Dhindsa, R. S., Misra, V., Singh, B. (2020) SARS-CoV2 infectivity is potentially modulated by host redox status. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal 18: 3705-3711.

Tripathi, R. K. Overbeek, W., Singh, J. (2020) Global analysis of SBP gene family in Brachypodium distachyon reveals its association with spike development. Scientific Reports 10; 15302.

Iqbal, I., Tripathi, R. K., Wilkins, O., Singh, J. (2020). Thaumatin-like Protein (TLP) gene family in barley: Genome-wide exploration and expression analysis during germination. Genes 11 (9), 1080.

Tripathi, R., Bregitzer, P. and Singh, J (2018) Specific SQUAMOSA Promoter Binding Protein-Like (SPL) genes in barley and their interaction with miR172 during indeterminate spikelet development. Scientific Reports 8:7085, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-25349-0.

Singh, S., Tripathi, R., Lemaux, P. G., Buchanan, B., Singh, J. (2017) Redox-dependent interaction of thaumatin-like protein and β-glucan influences malting quality in barley. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114(29):7725-7730.

Kaur, S., Dhugga., K. S., Beech, R., Singh, J. (2017) Genome-wide analysis of the Cellulose synthase-like (Csl) gene family in bread wheat BMC Plant Biology 17:193, DOI 10.1186/s12870-017-1142-z.

Kaur, S., Mohan, A., Vikram, P., Singh, S., Dhugga, K., Zhang, Z., Gill, K., Singh, J (2017) Genomic associations of straw cellulose content in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum, L.) Frontiers in Plant Science 8:1913. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.01913.

Kaur, S., Dhugga, K. S., Gill, K. S., Singh, J. (2016) Novel structural and functional motifs in cellulose synthase (CesA) genes of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum, L.). PLOS ONE 11(1): e0147046. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147046.

Cardinal, M-J., Kaur, R., Singh, J. (2016) Genetic transformation of Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum for the development of a transposon-based insertional mutagenesis system. Molecular Biotechnology 58 (10): 672-683.

Nandha, P., Singh, J. (2014) Comparative assessment of genetic diversity between wild and cultivated barley using gSSR and EST-SSR markers. Plant Breeding 133, 28–35.

Singh, M., Singh, S., Randhawa, H., Singh, J. (2013) Polymorphic homoeolog of key gene of RdDM pathway, ARGONAUTE4_9 class is associated with pre-harvest sprouting in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). PLOS ONE 8(10): e77009. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077009.

Lamb-Palmer, N.D., Singh, M., Dalton, J. P., Singh, J. (2013) Prokaryotic expression and purification of soluble maize Ac transposase. Molecular Biotechnology 54:685–691.

Kaur, R., Singh, K., Singh, J. (2013) A root specific wall-associated kinase gene, HvWAK1, regulates root growth, and is highly divergent in barley and other cereals. Functional & Integrative Genomics 13: 167-177.

Ahmad, S., Singh, M., Lamb-Palmer, N. D., Lefsrud, M., Singh, J. (2012) Assessment of genetic diversity in Pisum spp through microsatellite markers. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 92:1075-1081.

Singh, S., Tan, H-Q., Singh, J. (2012) Mutagenesis of barley malting quality QTLs with Ds transposons. Functional & Integrative Genomics 12:131-141.

Wong, J., Lau, C., Cai, N., Singh, J., Pedersen, J., Vensel, W. H., Hurkman, W., Lemaux, P., Buchanan, B. (2009) The interaction between starch and protein affect digestibility in sorghum grain. Journal of Cereal Science 49: 73–82.

Singh, J., Freeling, M., Lisch, D. (2008) A position effect on the heritability of epigenetic silencing PLOS Genetics 4: e1000216:1-17.

Bregitzer, P., Cooper, L. D., Hayes, P. M. Lemaux, P. G., Singh, J., Sturbaum, A. (2007) Viability and bar expression are negatively correlated in Oregon Wolfe Barley Dominant hybrids. Plant Biotechnology Journal 5: 381-388.

Singh, J., Zhang S., Chen, C., Cooper, L., Bregitzer, P., Sturbaum, A. K., Hayes, P. M., Lemaux, P. G. (2006) High-frequency Ds remobilization over multiple generations in barley facilitates gene tagging in large genome cereals. Plant Molecular Biology 62: 937-950.

Zhang, S., Chen, C., Li, L., Meng, M., Singh, J., Jiang, N., Deng, X-H., He, Z-H., Lemaux, P. G. (2005) Evolutionary expansion, gene structure, and expression of the rice (Oryza sativa L.) wall-associated kinase (OsWAKs) gene family. Plant Physiology 139: 1107-1124.

Singh, J., Skerritt, J. (2001) Chromosomal control of albumins and globulins in wheat grain using different fractionation procedures. Journal of Cereal Science 33: 63-181.

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