Curriculum Vitae

Siela Maximova Ph.D.

The Pennsylvania State University
421 Life Sciences Building
University Park PA, 16802


Tel.: 814-863-7286

Professional Preparation

1997-1999 - The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, Plant Biotechnology, Postdoctoral Research

1998 - Intellectual Property Rights and International Technology Transfer Internship Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

1997 - The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, Plant Physiology, Ph.D.

1992 - Agricultural University, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Agricultural Engineering and Horticulture, B.S. and M.S.


2008-present - Senior Research Associate and Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture, PSU

2008-2009 - Director, Plant Sciences, Capital Technology International, Pittsburgh, PA

1999-2008 - Research Associate, Program for Molecular Biology of Cacao, PSU

1996 - Visiting Scientist, University of California, Davis

1993-1997 - Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Horticulture, Penn State University

Research Activities

Dr. Maximova is currently involved and directs several basic and applied research projects on different plants species including: Theobroma cacao L., the chocolate tree; Jatropha curcas , a plant with high potential as a biodiesel feedstock source; Malus domestica (apple); Aristolochia fimbriata , a potential model plant for research on basal angiosperms; and Arabidopsis thaliana , a model for plant research. 

Her research areas include: plant genomics, high throughput gene discovery and expression studies; investigation of the molecular basis of pathogen/host and endophyte/host interactions and disease resistance mechanisms; characterization of genes involved in flavonol and oil biosynthesis in Cacao, and oil biosynthesis in Jatropha; plant biotechnology, development and evaluation of methods for genetic transformation and propagation systems; and evaluation of transgenic plants.  Dr. Maximova is a a member of the International Cocoa Genome Sequencing Consortium (IGCS) that has completed of a draft genome sequence of Theobroma cacao .

Teaching and Advising Experience

Dr. Maximova is a member of the faculty of the Plant Biology Program and the Department of Horticulture graduate programs at Penn State and has been involved with teaching and training students in molecular biology and biotechnology techniques since 1993.  At Penn State she co-teaches of a senior undergraduate course in Plant Biotechnology and Tissue Culture (Hort/Biotech 459). Dr. Maximova has also presented guest lectures for Genomics (HORT 597, IBIOS 597B), Agriculture (AG 150), and Plant Breeding (HORT 407).  Dr. Maximova has also taught Plant Tissue Culture Summer Classes for the PA Governor’s School at the College of Agriculture at PSU, University Park.

Dr. Maximova supervises, teaches and advises undergraduate and graduated students involved in different projects. She directs Hort 496 independent undergraduate research projects that included a project on designing a greenhouse and a cacao propagation facility at PSU during the semester and building the greenhouse with the students for a cacao farmer in Trinidad during a summer trip of 2 weeks (reports from this trip can be read here ). 

Dr. Maximova also teaches biotechnology and tissue culture workshops at Penn State for visiting scientists and at different US and international research centers.  She has presented workshops at Hodges, SC, USA; Ceplac, Brazil; CATIE, Costa Rica; and Castries, Saint Lucia. Dr. Maximova has developed a protocol handbook on cacao propagation and somatic embryogenesis that is periodically updated. The book currently is freely available at the Guiltinan lab.

Synergistic Activities

  1. Technology Transfer, Scientific Capacity Building for the Developing World Training of scientists in developing countries through scientific exchanges, workshops, and graduate training.
  2. In service to the cacao research community Dr. Maximova is a secretary of Molecular Biology Study group for The International Group for Genetic Improvement of Cacao (INGENIC).


Argout ,X., Salse, J., Aury, J.-M., Guiltinan, M., Droc, G., Gouzy, J., Allegre, M., Chaparro, C., Legavre, T., Maximova, S., et al. (52 other authors).  2011. The genome of Theobroma cacao. Nature Genetics, 43(2): 101-108

Singh, D.K., Maximova, S.N., Jensen, P.J., Lehman, B.L., Ngugi, H.K., and McNellis, T.W., 2010. FIBRILLIN 6 is required for normal oxidative stress resistance in cultivated apple and Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology, Nov., Vol. 154, pp. 1281–1293

Shi, Z., Maximova, S.N., Liu, Y., Verica, J., and Guiltinan, M.J., 2010. Functional analysis of the Theobroma cacao NPR1 gene in Arabidopsis. BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:248 DOI:10.1186/1471-2229-10-248

Bliss, B. J. Landherr, L., dePamphilis, C.W., Ma, H., Hu, Y., Maximova, S. N., 2009. Regeneration and plantlet development from somatic tissues of Aristolochia fimbriata, Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture, Vol. 98 (1), p 105-114

Marelli, J.P., Maximova, S.N., Gramacho, K.P., Kang, S., and Guiltinan, M.J. 2009. Infection biology of  Moniliophthora perniciosa on Theobroma cacao and alternate solanaceous hosts. Trop. Plant Biol. Tropical Plant Biology, 2 (3-4). Dec., p. 149-160

Jensen, P.J., Makalowska, I., Altman, N., Fazio, F. Praul, C., Maximova, S.N. Crassweller, R.M., Travis, J.W., and McNellis, T.W., 2009. Rootstock-regulated gene expression patterns in apple tree scions. Tree Gen Gen, on line publication: DOI 10.1007/s11295-009-0228-7

Maximova, S.N., Young, A., Pishak, S., Guiltinan, M.J., 2008. Field Performance of Theobroma cacao L. plants propagated via somatic embryogenesis. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol.-Plant, Vol. 44 (6), p 487-493

Maximova, S.N., Tan, C, L., and Guiltinan, M.J. 2008. Cocoa. In A Compendium of Transgenic Crop Plants, C. Kole and T. Hall, eds (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing), pp. 85-98

Melnick, R.L., Zidack, N.K., Bailey, B.A., Maximova, S.N ., Guiltinan, M.J., Backman, P.A, 2008. Bacterial endophytes: Bacillus spp. from vegetable crops as potential biological control agents of black pod rot of cacao, Biological Control, Vol. 46, p 46-56

Argout X, Fouet O, Wincker P, Gramacho K, Legavre T, Sabau X, Risterucci AM, Da Silva C, Cascardo J, Allegre M, Kuhn D, Verica JA, Courtois B, Loor RG, Regis B, Sounigo O, Ducamp M, Guiltinan MJ, Ruiz M, Alemanno L, Machado R, Phillips W, Schnell R, Gilmour M, Rosenquist E, Butler D, Maximova S.N., Lanaud C., 2008. Towards the understanding of the cocoa transcriptome: Production and analysis of an exhaustive dataset of ESTs of Theobroma cacao generated from various tissues and under various conditions. BMC Genomics. Oct 30; 9(1): 512

Marelli J, Masseret B, Petiard V, Tanksley S, Grandillo S, Maximova S , Kang S, Guiltinan M., 2008. Discovery of new sources of resistance to Moniliophthora perniciosa, the witches' broom pathogen of Theobroma cacao in near isogenic lines of tomato. Phytopathology 98: S98-S9

Maximova, S.N., Marelli, J-P., Young, A., Pishak, S., Verica, J. A., Guiltinan, M.J., 2006. Over-expression of a cacao class I chitinase gene in Theobroma cacao L. enhances resistance against the pathogen, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. Planta 224(4): 740-9

Bailey, B.A., Bae, H., Strem, M.D., Antunez de Mayolo, G., Guiltinan, M.J., Verica, J.A., Maximova, S.N. , Bowers, J.H., 2005. Developmental expression of stress response genes in Theobroma cacao leaves and their response to Nep1 treatment and a compatible infection by Phytophthora megakarya. Plant Physiol Biochem. Jun; 43(6):611-22

Maximova, S.N ., Young, A., Pishak, S., Miller, C.R., Traore, A., Guiltinan, M.J., 2005. Integrated system for propagation of Theobroma cacao L., In: Protocols of somatic embryogenesis in woody plants. Series: Forestry Sciences, Vol. 77, Jain, S. Mohan; Gupta, Pramod K. (Eds.) 2005, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, ISBN: 1-4020-2984-5

Melnick, R.L., Backman, P.A., Bailey, B., Maximova, S. , Guiltinan, M., 2005. Bacterial endophytes as biological control agents for black pod rot of cacao. Phytopathology 95: S171-S171

Marelli, J.P., Kang, S., Maximova, S ., Gramacho, K.P., Backman, P., Guiltinan, M.J., 2005. Symptom development and fungal colonization in tomato lines interacting with Crinipellis perniciosa, the causal agent of cacao witches' broom. Phytopathology 95: S171-S171

Verica, J.A., Maximova, S.N., Strem, M.D., Carlson, J.E., Bailey, B.A., Guiltinan, M.J., 2004. Isolation of ESTs from cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) leaves treated with inducers of the defense response. Plant Cell Rep. Nov; 23(6): 404-13

Maximova , S.N., Miller, C., Antúnez de Mayolo, G., Pishak, S., Young, A., and Guiltinan, M.J., 2003. Stable transformation of Theobroma cacao L. and influence of matrix attachment regions on GFP expression. Plant Cell Reports 21: 872-883

Antúnez de Mayolo, G., Maximova, S.N ., Pishak, S., Guiltinan, M.J., 2003. Moxalactam as a counter-selection antibiotic for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and its positive effects on Theobroma cacao somatic embryogenesis. Plant Science 164: 607-615

Traore, A., Maximova, S.N., Guiltinan, M.J., 2003. Micropropagation of Theobroma cacao using somatic embryo-derived plants. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol.-Plant. 39 (3): 332-337

Maximova, S.N., Alemanno, L., Young, A., Ferriere, N., Traore, A., and Guiltinan, M.J., 2002 Efficiency, genotypic variability, and cellular origin of primary and secondary somatic embryogenesis of Theobroma cacao L. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant 38, 252-259(258).

Maximova, S., Dandekar, A., Guiltinan, M.J., 1998. Investigation of Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation of apple using green fluorescent protein: high transient expression and low stable transformation suggest that factors other than T-DNA transfer are rate-limiting. Plant Molecular Biology 37(3): 549-559

Li, Z., Traore, A., Maximova, S.N., Guiltinan, M.J., 1998. Somatic embryogenesis and plant regeneration form floral explants of cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) using thidiazuron. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol.-Plant 34: 293-299


US 6150587, Methods and tissue culture media for inducing somatic embryogenesis, Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and efficient regeneration of cacao plants. By M. Guiltinan, L. Zhijian, A., Traore and S. Maximova, Issued: March 6, 2001

US 6197587, Method and tissue culture media for inducing somatic embryogenesis, Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and efficient regeneration of cacao plants. By M. Guiltinan, L. Zhijian, A., Traore and S. Maximova, Issued: November 21, 2000