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, R2-021a  |  Curriculum Vitae |
Genome Editing for Food Security and Environmental Sustainability (GEFSES), NSERC-CREATE Program


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

Short Bio

Dr. Jaswinder Singh is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Science, McGill University, Canada. Dr. Singh received his PhD from the University of Sydney and CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra Australia and did his postdoctoral studies at the University of California Berkeley, U.S.A. His research focuses on the enhancement of quality traits, stress tolerance and bioenergy capability of crop plants using modern genomic, molecular breeding and biotechnological tools. Dr. Singh is an internationally recognized innovator in the use of transposon tagging in cereal crops. His findings have shown for the first time the reversal of epigenetic silencing in plants. Recently, his laboratory discovered a key gene that acts as a switch to determine how a particular plant responds to high humidity and excess rainfall. The research opens up a new epigenetic-based direction for exploration of seed dormancy and Pre Harvest Sprouting (PHS). He has delivered 50 invited talks in international meetings and renowned academic institutes. He has published over 50 research articles in high impact peer reviewed journals, books and conference proceedings. He also presented his research at prestigious conferences and published 80 abstracts. Additionally, he is actively involved in teaching plant breeding, plant biotechnology, genetics, plant biology courses, training graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and lab assistants.

Awards and Recognitions

  1. Recognized with prestigious C. D. Nelson Award (2018) for outstanding contribution to plant science (http://www.cspb-scbv.ca/awards_nelson.shtml)
  2. President, Canadian Society of Agronomy (2018-2019) http://agronomycanada.com/
  3. Board Member, Plant Canada (2018-2020) http://www.plantcanada.ca/
  4. Academic Editor, PLOS ONE (2015-)
  5. Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Plant Science (2010-2018)
  6. Co-chair, CSA-CSHS joint Conference (2016)
  7. Chair, Gleb Krotkov award committee, Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (2019)
  8. Co-chair, Canadian Plant Biotechnology Conference (2014)
  9. DuPont Young Professor Award nominations (2012, 2013)
  10. Membership Officer- Canadian Association of Plant Biotechnology (2013-2014)
  11. Eastern Director, Canadian Society of Agronomy (2010-2012)
  12. Member, AAFC Peer review panel (2011-2013; 2015)

International Activities

  • Active research collaboration with cereal scientists at CIMMYT, ICRISAT, IIT, ETH Zürich, USDA Idaho, Washington State University and University of California, Berkeley
  • Chair, Lab to Field Symposium, American Society of Plant Biologists annual meeting (2018)
  • International Team Member, Oat Rust Forum (ORF) -Novel Genetic Technology (NGT), University of Minnesota (2016- )
  • 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)
  • Session Chair, Genomics and Plant Breeding, 1st International Conference on Conventional and Modern Approaches in Plant Science (CMAPS-17), Lahore, Pakistan (2017)
  • Member, Organizing Committee, International Conference on Recent Developments, Future Prospects and Entrepreneurial Trends in Biotechnology, India (2009)

Active Affiliations

  • The Canadian Society of Agronomy
  • The Canadian Society of Plant Biologists
  • The American Society of Plant Biologists
  • National Association of Plant Breeders

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.

My 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

  • Transposon-mediated gene exploration in barley and other cereals
  • RdDM pathway, SQUAMOSA-promoter binding like (SPL), and Thaumatin-like proteins (TLPs) genes in cereals
  • Activation Transposon Tagging in Oat
  • 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"

Current Courses Taught

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

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

Courses Taught

AEBI 210 Organisms 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

BTEC 306 Experiments in Biotechnology 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

LSCI 204 Genetics 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Selected Publications

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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