I joined the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department in October 2016 to work as postdoctoral Research Associate in Dr. Trigiano’s laboratory. I came to UTIA from the Research Institute of Horticulture (Skierniewice, Poland) where I spent six years (2010-2016) studying molecular background of (a)biotic stress responses in economically important plants. I held one post-doctoral position before that (joint Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology [Golm, Germany] and Michigan State University in 2006-2009). My primary teaching responsibilities in the past were Cell Biology and Biochemistry and lab mentoring of the students. I received my Ph.D. at the Technical University Aachen (RWTH Aachen, Germany) under the supervision of Dr. Margrit Frentzen in the Institute for Botany / Unit of Special Botany. My research program has largely focused on functional, population, and evolutionary studies of plants and their pathogens. Mentoring is a critical link between my research, teaching, and outreach activities. I have mentored several colleagues both in the formal setting and in the lab ([under]graduate students and postdocs). Drawing from my personal history, I am committed to empowering the underrepresented groups in STEM.

Creative Art Microscope image

Research Focus

My work at UTIA-EPP focuses on population-genetics approaches that allow important evolutionary inferences. During that time, several major studies were carried out (and are ongoing), on the following species: dogwoods, sunflowers, Frafra potato, Green and Gold, rubber/local dandelions. One of the biggest impacts of my work was, the study of species diversity in native Asian dogwoods (Cornus kousa), sampled from the herbaria and arboreta across the US. Collaborations with those generally under-employed resources were very rewarding in several other projects completed. In the course of the last few years, I implemented critical improvements to our analytical pipeline, including isolation-by-distance ([partial] Mantel tests), DAPC (with optimization and cross-checks), evolutionary analyses (DIYABC suite), and isolation-with-migration. Another important emerging research topic is the diversity of the notorious invasive callery pear, Pyrus calleryana. This study, led by my MS student Shiwani, already gained traction with many people in the Eastern USA sending us samples of trees that escaped cultivation. We want to complement the molecular diversity information with the observational data, to conclude on the species invasiveness potential. This will inform the stringency needed for a successful management strategy of the callery pear.

Extension and Outreach Focus

The Land Grant mission of University of Tennessee strongly relies on the extension and outreach service. Dissemination of research and translational/applied research is the best way to enrich and elevate the citizens of Tennessee, the nation, and the world.

Several of my research projects have a major outreach component. I was involved in the studies on a molecular toolbox for dogwoods and redbuds (popular ornamental trees), Green and Gold, and dandelions (ornamental herbaceous plants). The currently pursued callery pear project aims to directly inform the management strategy, based on the data accrued. The same project connected more than 100 people in sampling the rogue trees, with regular updates on the study progress.

As a way to give back to the community, I serve in whatever capacity presents itself. I’m engaged in the UTK events: Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair (SASEF) and EURēCA. In the professional capacity, I serve on several journals and in several Learned Societies.

Teaching Focus

We are blessed to live in times of abundance and availability of information. This fact revolutionizes the approach to learning and teaching, promoting continuous and self-education, to successfully face the future challenges. A previous advisor instilled into me, that the best leaders care to raise their own replacement during tenure. With this idea, I consider my teaching and mentoring philosophy and style as ‘bespoke empowerment’. Throughout the years, I was fortunate to mentor students and colleagues of many cultural backgrounds at various stages of their careers. Recognizing the specific individual needs, skills, and limitations, was in each case essential to strike a mutually respectful, successful co-operation. One important aspect of my approach that extends beyond sharing the factual knowledge, is to nourish the critical and independent thinking in my mentees. With basic training in teaching and pedagogy, I based my teaching approach on the experiences in the lab, lectures, professional meetings, and presentations, and modified it as needed. This allows to enrich the students not only in the dry facts and biological concepts, but also practical tools and strategies to carry on with studying the particular aspects they need.


Research Assistant Professor
office (865) 974-7135
mobile (352) 682-9048
fax (865) 974-4744

227 Third Creek Building
2505 EJ Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4560


MS, Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Warsaw, Poland (2002)
PhD, Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Technical University RWTH Aachen, Germany (2006)

Professional appointment
100% Research

Graduate program concentrations
Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Molecular Interactions
Sustainable Disease and Integrated Pest Management Systems

Areas of expertise
Invasive species, biodiversity, molecular genetics, population and evolutionary genetics/genomics of plants and their pathogens

invasive species, population genetics and genomics, evolution, speciation, crop resistance and breeding, utility traits

Information for prospective students and postdoctoral researchers
Please inquire about current research opportunities in my laboratory.


Research questions in our laboratory

  • What ecological, biological, and genomic factors drive species invasion?
  • How fast does a biological invasion progress?
  • How do new species arise?
  • What molecular events underlie plant resistance to (obligate) pathogens?
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Current lab members

  • Shiwani Sapkota (MS student)

Selected Publications

MA Ony, M Nowicki, S Boggess, WE Klingeman III, J Zobel, RN Trigiano, D Hadziabdic-Guerry (2020) The effect of habitat fragmentation on genetic diversity and differentiation: Fine-scale population structure of Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud). Ecology and Evolution; in press DOI:10.1002/ece3.6141

PL Kowalczewski, A Olejnik, W Bialas, P Kubiak, A Siger, M Nowicki, Lewandowicz G (2019) Effect of thermal processing on antioxidant activity and cytotoxicity of waste potato juice. Open Life Sciences 14 (2), 150-157 DOI: 10.1515/biol-2019-0017

M Nowicki, Y Zhao, SL Boggess, H Fluess, M Payá-Milans, ME Staton, LC Houston, D Hadziabdic, RN Trigiano (2019) Taraxacum kok-saghyz (rubber dandelion) genomic microsatellite loci reveal modest genetic diversity and cross-amplify broadly to related species. Scientific Reports 9 (1915), 1-17 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-38532-8

M Nowicki, SL Boggess, AM Saxton, D Hadziabdic, QYJ Xiang, T Molnar, ML Huff, ME Staton, Y Zhao, RN Trigiano (2018) Haplotyping of Cornus florida and C. kousa chloroplasts: Insights into species-level differences and patterns of plastic DNA variation in cultivars. Plos One 13 (10), e0205407

M Nowakowska, M Nowicki, U Kłosińska, R Maciorowski, EU Kozik (2014) Appraisal of artificial screening techniques of tomato to accurately reflect field performance of the late blight resistance. Plos One 9 (10), e109328

M Nowicki, EU Kozik, MR Foolad (2013) Late blight of tomato. In: Translational Genomics for Crop Breeding: Volume 1-Biotic Stress 1 (1), 241-265

For complete list of publications please visit my