Molly Hanlon

Molly Hanlon

Postdoctoral Scholar in Plant Sciences

Penn State Unviersity

About Me

I am an experienced root biologist with expertise in plant mineral nutrition, plant‑soil relations, and plant growth under stress. I have worked and managed interdisciplinary teams of engineers, computational scientists, image analysts, and biologists to try to build tools to allow us to effectively phenotype roots and identify genes that underlie beneficial root traits. My skills include phenotyping, image analysis, field trial design and implementation, and R.


  • Plant Science
  • Root Biology
  • Plant Nutrition


  • PhD in Plant Biology, 2017

    Penn State University

  • BS in Biochemistry, 2009

    Allegheny College


A blend of scientific, analytical, and life skills


Main language for data analysis and figure-making


Digging and Soil Coring

Until we develop new technologies, brute force is the answer

Plant Nutrition and Analysis

Analyze plant nutrients though various lab techniques



Grow it, study it, eat it.

Data Analysis

Both field and lab experiment analysis

X-Ray Fluorescence

Use of X-Ray fluorescence to analyze plant elemental content


Academic Farming including troubleshooting antiquated machinery


Image Analysis

ImageJ, Fiji, custom programs


Always up for a (slow) small-sided game


I travel with goggles


The best way to commute, no matter the weather


Fixing Things

Resurrecting failing lab equipment is my specialty



Postdoctoral Scholar

Department of Plant Science

Jan 2018 – Present Penn State University
In the lab of Dr. Jonathan Lynch, my research project is part of the larger ARPA-E DEEPER program. My research project is LEADER: Leaf Elemental Accumulation from deep roots. I use advanced sensing to determine root depth via leaf elemental content

Project Manager

DEEPER: An integrated phenotyping platform for deeper roots

Jul 2017 – Present Penn State University
Managed the ARPA-E funded DEEPER project, which includes over 20 researchers at four institutions. Researchers include plant scientists, geneticists, image analysts, computer scientists, and engineers. Responsibilities include reporting to the agency quarterly, managing tech-to-market components, and meeting milestones on all aspects of the project.

PhD Student

Plant Biology Program, Huck Institute of Life Sciences

Jul 2017 – Present Penn State University
Completed an NSF-GRFP funded PhD with Dr. Kathleen M. Brown, titled ‘New perspectives on conventional ideas about root system architecture and morphology’

Outside Links

Penn State labs and pages

Roots Lab

Lab of Jonathan Lynch and Kathleen Brown at Penn State


An integrated phenotyping platform for deeper roots