Faculty Detail

Maryann A.B. Herman

Title: Associate Professor
Office: ISHS 208
Phone: (585) 899-3736
Email: mherman@sjfc.edu
Education: Ph.D., Cornell University
B.S., Allegheny College
Areas of Interest: Bioremediation of lead-contaminated soil; plant-microbe interactions

Maryann  A.B. Herman

My teaching focus is at the sophomore level in plant and microbiology. I also enjoy teaching an elective in medical ethnobotany and a non-majors course on fungi. My training is in plant pathology and my graduate work focused on induction of defense response pathways in vegetables. I'm currently working on pedagogical projects that investigate student engagement, critical thinking, and misconceptions.

My research program investigates interactions between plants, microbes and the environment. One focus is on using plants and microbes to remediate lead-contaminated soils in Rochester. I also have projects investigating prevalence of antibiotic resistance bacteria in local lakes and rivers.


BIOL 116 Fungi: Rotting Our World
BIOL 127 General Biology Lab
BIOL 199 Research-Based Writing
BIOL 213 Plant Biology
BIOL 214 Microbiology Lab
BIOL 313 Medical Ethnobotany


Lead poisoning is a global and local concern, causing serious health problems in children and adults. Unfortunately, residents of older urban areas, such as the Highland Park neighborhood of Rochester, are at risk for environmental lead exposure from soil contamination by lead-based paint and leaded gasoline. It is crucial to educate residents on both safe and high-lead accumulating plants typically grown in home gardens. While the optimal solution would be to eradicate lead from contaminated soil, this option is not feasible. Heavy metals cannot be destroyed; modifying lead to a less toxic substance or immobilizing it in a non-absorbable form are the best possible solutions (Gadd 2000; Valls & de Lorenzo 2002; Wu et al. 2006). Certain plants, bacteria and fungi have great potential to remediate lead in soil, though more research is needed to before this approach can be adopted.

This project is a collaboration with colleagues in the Chemistry Department at St. John Fisher College (Drs. Chichester and Kimaru) and several community partners. The aim of this work is three-fold: (1) to investigate lead accumulation in garden vegetables, (2) disseminate the results to the Rochester community and (3) explore bioremediation methods to reduce soil-lead levels.

Currently, students are investigating the effects of variable soil lead concentrations (high, low, no lead) on germination and growth of locally grown vegetables. Ethiopian mustard, a known hyperacculator of lead, is being studied for phytoremediation potential. The effects of various lead concentrations on the physiology of the mustard and amount of lead removed from the soil is being investigated. Another focus of the research involves collecting lead-contaminated soil from the Rochester area for assessment of microbial content. Bacteria present in the root zone and surrounding areas will be cultured and characterized. Promising strains will be investigated for lead remediation and plant growth-promoting potential.

Another research project investigates the increasing public health concern of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Sewage and agricultural run-off into upstate New York waterways may contain antibiotic-resistant microbes due to anti-microbial compounds excreted in humans and livestock waste. Current student projects involve sampling Lake Ontario and the Genesee River, culturing and identifying bacterial isolates, and characterizing resistance to clinically relevant antibiotics.


  • Herman, M.A.B., Davidson, S.L., Lange, H., and Smart, C.D. 2012. Plant activator and bacterial speck induction of tomato defense response pathways over three field seasons. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Herman, M., and Williams, M.E. 2012, June 27. Fighting for their lives: Plants and Pathogens. Teaching Tools in Plant Biology: Lecture Notes. The Plant Cell (online), doi/10.1105/ tpc.112.tt0412.
  • Chichester, K.D., Kimaru, I., Donahue, L., and Herman, M.A.B. 2011. Utilizing Service-Learning in the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory: Soil and Water Analysis in Rochester, NY. Issues in Engaged Scholarship. 1-17.
  • Herman, M.A.B., Rajkhowa, T., Cutuli, F., Springate, J., and Taub, M. 2010. Regulation of renal proximal tubule NA,K-ATPase by prostaglandins. American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology. 298: F1222-F1234.
  • Herman, M.A.B., Davidson, J.K., and Smart, C.D. 2008. Induction of plant defense response pathways by plant activators and Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato on greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Phytopathology. 98(11): 1226-1232.
  • Herman, M.A.B., Restrepo, S., and Smart, C.D. 2007. Acibenzolar-S-methyl induction of plant defense genes in three tomato varieties in the field. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology. 71(4-6): 192-200.
  • Herman, M.A.B., Nault, B.A., and Smart, C.D. 2007. Effects of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria on bell pepper production and green peach aphid infestations in New York. Crop Protection. 27(6): 996-1002.
  • Borsick, M., Rajkhowa, T., and Taub, M. 2006. Evidence for post-transcriptional regulation of Na,K-ATPase by prostaglandin E1. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 345(2): 739-45.
  • Matlhagela, K., Borsick, M., Rajkhowa, T., and Taub, M. 2005. Identification of a prostaglandin-responsive element in the Na,K-ATPase β1 promoter that is regulated by cAMP and Ca2+: Evidence for an interactive role of cAMP regulatory element-binding protein and Sp1. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 280(1): 334-346.
  • Taub, M., Borsick, M., Geisel, J., Matlhagela, K., Rajkhowa, T., and Allen, C. 2004. Regulation of the Na, K-ATPase in MDCK cells by prostaglandin E1: a role for calcium as well as cAMP. Experimental Cell Research. 299: 1-14.

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