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Jeanmaire Molina

Jeanmaire E. Molina

Assistant Professor of Biology

B.S., University of the Philippines - DilimanPh.D., New Brunswick Campus, Rutgers University


Jeanmaire "Jean" Molina was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, by parents who have always shared their love for the natural sciences with their three children. At age 10, she was already collecting bugs in her Barbie® doll's drawers or digging for queen ants to start a colony in her improvised Lego® terrarium. With dreams of becoming like Sean Connery in "Medicine Man," she studied biology at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Soon after graduating in 2001, she met botanist Leonard Co, who became her mentor. Co recruited her to work for Conservation International-Philippines as field assistant conducting floristic inventories in Palanan, Isabela, site for one of the most remote but pristine forests in the Philippines. This work, later published as a collaborative effort (Co et al. 2006), was the first to document the demographics of Philippine forest trees, and she continues to be part of the international research team that aims to understand long-term community dynamics in this forest type. In 2003 Jean left for the US to pursue graduate studies at Rutgers University, NJ, where she worked on the evolution and biogeography of the grape relative, Leea (Molina et al. 2013) for her doctoral dissertation. In 2009 she joined the lab of Dr. Michael Purugganan at New York University as a postdoctoral scientist and worked on the evolutionary genomics of rice domestication. This resulted in a publication (Molina et al. 2011) and a BBC press release providing the first molecular evidence for the Chinese origin of the Asian domesticated rice, which includes indica rice, raising the eyebrows of many Indian rice scientists. Thereafter, Jean joined the biology faculty of Long Island University's (LIU) Brooklyn Campus. Much of her research employs phylogenetics and its applications in systematics, community ecology, and biogeography, even herbal medicine. In 2014, she coauthored a paper on the possible loss of the chloroplast genome--the set of genes that makes plants plants--in the parasitic plant, Rafflesia (Molina et al. 2014), which also produces the largest flowers in the world. Possessing only nonfunctional plastid-like sequence fragments, many potentially horizontally transferred from its host, Rafflesia seems to be the first plant to have lost its native plastid genome, prompting the provocative title "When is a plant no longer a plant?" on a science news magazine. As professor at LIU, Jean has designed and taught courses in ethnobotany and medicinal botany to encourage students to develop a renewed appreciation for plants, for their vital and inextricable, yet often overlooked roles in human lives. Jean believes that she has to translate her research for non-biologists that would create an attitude of lifetime appreciation for all plant life, not only for the charismatic Rafflesia, but even for the mundane moss growing by the sidewalk, regardless of the careers her students end up choosing.

Jeanmaire "Jean" Molina CV


Plant Systematics, Botany, Evolutionary Biology


Co-author, articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, PLoS ONE, Molecular Ecology, Plant Species Biology, Systematic Botany, Systematics and Biodiversity and the Australian Journal of Systematic Botany
(2004 – 2011)

Co-author, "Forest Trees of Palanan, Philippines: A Study in Population Ecology" (2006)

Co-author, "Palanan Forest Dynamics Plot, Philippines, "published in Tropical Forest Diversity and Dynamism: Findings from a Large-Scale Plot Network (2004)

Co-author, "Pictorial Guide to the Tree and Shrub Flora of the Palanan Forest Dynamics Plot and Vicinity, Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park" (2003)

Professional Affiliations:

Research Affiliate, New York University

Research Affiliate, University of the Philippines and Philippine Genome Center

Researcher, Palanan Forest Dynamics Plot (Philippines), Center for Tropical Forest Science