Hake was born in Iowa City, Iowa. Her family moved to California when she was 10, but she returned to Iowa to attend Grinnell College. From there, she went to Washington University for her PhD in plant biology with Dr. Virginia Walbot. She did a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Michael Freeling at UC Berkeley where she had two children before starting her career at a USDA ARS unit in Albany CA, the Plant Gene Expression Center. She worked there her entire career, being the Center Director the last 20 years. She retired in September, 2020 but maintains an adjunct professor position with UC Berkeley. Her interests have focused on developmental genetics, particularly in maize.

Research Interests

Our research group has used genetics to study development in plants. We cloned the first developmental gene in plants, knotted1 (kn1), which led to a molecular tool to study the meristem. We showed that kn1 is expressed throughout the meristem, but not in the cells that will initiate the leaf, thus marking the transition from indeterminate to determinate fates. When kn1 is misexpressed in the leaf and in other plants, dramatically new morphologies ensue. Some of the direct targets of this homeobox transcription factor are genes that produce or regulate plant hormones. Our interest in the meristem has also led to studies of the flower-bearing structures in plants, the inflorescence. By positionally cloning maize mutants, we have identified a number of genes that regulate the degree of branching in maize. Most of the genes encode transcription factors that function in defined groups of cells in the inflorescence, but some of them encode microRNAs. More recently, we are starting to look at the interplay of natural diversity in maize with mutant alleles, thus identifying additional genes that play minor but significant roles in development.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology