Singh, Jaswinder

Academic title(s): 

Associate Professor;

Associate Member, Bieler School of Environment

Singh, Jaswinder
Contact Information
Email address: 
jaswinder.singh [at]

Raymond Building, R2-026D


"Are we equipped with the necessary tools and expertise to bolster crop resilience in the face of climate change? Securing our food and nutrition in an environmentally sustainable manner hinges on our ability to address this challenge."

Research areas: 
Sustainable agriculture and climate resilience
Biotechnology and molecular genetics
Crop improvement and genomics

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.

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

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

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 
  • Recognized with prestigious C. D. Nelson Award (2018) for outstanding contribution to plant biology innovations
  • 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
  • DuPont Young Professor Award nominations (2012, 2013)
  • Nominated for Macdonald Campus Teaching Excellence Award (2013)
Areas of interest: 

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.

Major Research Objectives
  • 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.


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

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