Megan L. Matthews

 Megan L. Matthews
Megan L. Matthews
  • Assistant Professor
3024 Civil Eng Hydrosystems Lab

Primary Research Area

  • Water Resources Engineering and Science

Research Areas

For More Information


Megan L. Matthews holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University, where she developed a multiscale model of lignin biosynthesis in poplar trees. Megan came to the University of Illinois as a postdoctoral researcher to develop multiscale crop models for the RIPE and Crops in silico projects. Megan joined the CEE Department as an Assistant Professor in January 2021. Here, her research will focus on developing multiscale plant models that integrate information across multiple levels of biological organization, and using those models to (1) explore the impacts of a changing environment on plants and (2) identify engineering strategies for improving plant development and growth.


  • B.S. Electrical Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2011
  • M.S. Electrical Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2012
  • Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2019

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1/2021 - Present
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, UIUC, 7/2019-12/2020

Research Interests

  • Multiscale plant and crop modeling (gene regulation, protein regulation, metabolism, physiology, ecosystem, etc.)
  • Photosynthesis modeling and engineering
  • Crop and environmental sustainability
  • Control systems theory in biological modeling
  • Data-driven modeling

Research Statement

Food security, energy security, and environmental sustainability in a world with a growing population and a changing climate are current challenges facing the global community. Genetic and metabolic engineering of crops to improve photosynthetic efficiency, carbon and nutrient allocation, and nutrient and water use efficiencies in food and bioenergy crops are potential avenues to address these challenges.

Using methods frequently implemented by engineers to study and develop models that describe efficient and robust man-made and environmental systems (e.g., ordinary differential equation modeling, constraint-based and multi-objective optimization, machine learning, and system identification and analysis), we can also develop mathematical models that describe biological systems like crops. With these models, we can explore a wider array of potential strategies for engineering crops than would be feasible to experimentally test due to cost and time constraints.

Since plants cannot move to new locations when faced with environmental stressors, they have developed complex regulatory strategies to adapt to changes in their environments. As such, plants are regulated at multiple levels of biological organization (e.g., genes, RNA, proteins, metabolites, physiology, etc.). Vertical integration of these biological levels through multiscale modeling is necessary to understand how plants respond to stressors and how plants can be engineered to achieve specific objectives (e.g., improved photosynthetic efficiency).

My research aims include developing multiscale models of photosynthesis and plant growth to (1) explore how photosynthesis will respond to individual and combined environmental stressors, (2) identify genetic and metabolic engineering strategies for improving photosynthetic efficiency and other crop processes while maintaining or improving crop acclimation, adaptation, sustainability, yield, and/or nutritional content, and (3) exploring how engineering crops can impact their surrounding environments and other civil and environmental infrastructures.

Primary Research Area

  • Water Resources Engineering and Science

Research Areas