Maren Friesen

Maren Friesen

Associate Professor 509-335-5805 Plant Sciences Building 1772 NE Stadium Way


Research Specialty and Interests

I am fascinated by beneficial plant-microbe interactions, particularly those between nitrogen-fixing bacteria and plants. Much of my work is in the legume-rhizobia system, utilizing natural genetic variation in both partners to ask questions about adaptation and conflict. I am also working in grass-associative nitrogen fixation systems to understand the functioning of interrelationships between plants and their rhizosphere communities and the evolutionary stability and molecular basis of these interactions. Finally, I use mathematical models to explore the conceptual underpinnings of mutualisms with the goal of integrating models with empirical data to understand fundamental processes acting at molecular, organismal, population/community, and ecosystem scales.


  • PhD in Population Biology, University of California, Davis, 2008
  • BSc in Ecology and Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Canada, 2003

Professional Experience and Activities


  • Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Pathology & Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, 2017 – present
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, 2013 – 2017
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Molecular and Computational Biology, University of Southern California, 2008 – 2013

Employment and Graduate Student Opportunities

I am currently recruiting motivated trainees with diverse backgrounds who are seeking an environment where they will develop intellectual independence within the context of strong collaboration, interdisciplinary relationships, and mutual respect. I expect members of my group to write research proposals, coauthor publications, give scientific presentations, be involved in science outreach, and have fun. If this sounds like you, please contact me with your CV and a 1-page statement of interest.

  • Undergraduates: My lab normally has several undergraduates who work with some combination of plants, microbes, molecular biology, bioinformatics, image analysis, and video game design.
  • Graduate students: I can accept graduate students through the MPS program as well as the departmental graduate programs in Plant Path and CSS. I encourage potential graduate students to apply for independent fellowships, please contact me for guidance when you apply.
  • Postdocs: I am always looking for talented people to join my group and welcome the opportunity to help you apply for independent funding through various agencies, in addition to grant support for ongoing projects in my lab. I follow Google’s strategy of encouraging postdocs to spend 20% of their time on creative new projects distinct from their main project.


Please see my Google Scholar profile.