Yourha Kang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology, Chair
Iona College
New Rochelle, NY 10801
 (914) 633-2260

                                                                       Iona College Website                                          Biology Department Website

I am the plant biologist at Iona College and I mainly teach Biochemistry, Botany, and Pharmacology.  I am also currently the chair of the Biology Department.  My background is primarily in the field of plant molecular biology, but I have interests in biochemistry and plant physiology.  I currently have two research projects at Iona.  The first project is investigating the population genetics of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).  The second is a project investigating the molecular mechanisms behind the ability of the common reed (Phragmites australis) to tolerate high metal environments



Biochemistry I

Biochemistry Laboratory

Biochemistry II

Introduction to Botany

Introduction to Pharmacology

Capstone Seminar

General Biology Laboratory

Research Interests:

picture of butterfly weed   

Project 1:  Asclepias tuberosa, the butterfly weed, is a plant that is part of the milkweed family and is primarily known because it provides a habitat for butterflies, particularly monarch butterflies.  Butterflies lay their eggs underneath the leaves of the milkweed, and the larvae eat the plants.  The plant is easy to grow and the flowers are quite attractive and therefore, the plant is seen in many "butterfly gardens."  Native populations of the butterfly weed are apparently disappearing in New York State, however, such that the plant has been labeled "expoitably vulnerable" and is protected by New York State law.  I am interested in the genetic diversity that exists in the butterfly weed plant in Westchester County, New York State, and in the rest of the United States where butterfly weed is found.  The study began locally at Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, NY, and has expanded to include plants from parks in Westchester County, upstate NY, as well as plants from all over the country, including Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.  I am hoping to expand the project to other include plants from other areas of the country.  This research could not have been possible without the help of numerous volunteers from various native plant societies throughout the United States, nor without a grant from Friends of Marshlands in Rye, NY.  Jim Boylan ('04) based his honors thesis on this research.  Marissa Sansone (’10), Lauren Sica (’09), Florybeth Lavalle (’09), Amanda Glaser (’08), and Christina McDonough (’07) have also contributed to this research.

Click here for an abstract and picture of a poster presentation of this research made during the Tri-Beta Regional Convention held on April 25, 2009 at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford, CT.  

Click here for the abstract for the Bios publication: Boylan J, LaValle F, and Kang Y. 2009.  Determination of genetic relationships among populations of Asclepias tuberosa (Asclepiadaceae) based on ISSR polymorphisms.  BIOS 80(1): 25-34.

The publication was honored with the McClung Award for the best paper published in the journal, Bios, in the year 2009. 

Click here for an abstract of a poster presentation of this research made during a conference of the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities, October 29-30, 2004 at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Click here for an abstract of a poster presentation of this research made during the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists, August 4-9, 2006  in Boston, MA
Click here for more pictures from the project

    (picture of Phragmites australis)   

Project 2:  Phragmites australis, the common reed, is a plant that is found ubiquitously throughout North America.  It has been shown that the plant can survive in a number of different habitats, including those with soils having a relatively high metal content.  I am interested in discovering the underlying mechanisms associated with the plant’s ability to tolerate the higher levels of heavy metals.  We have hypothesized that Phragmites contains proteins that either work to pump heavy metals out of the plant, or accumulate them in different parts of the plant.  Therefore, we are using molecular techniques to identify the genes that may express proteins involved in metal transport.  Thus far, Nichole Walker (’11) has designed DNA primers based on sequences of known metal transporters from similarly-related plants.  She has used these primers to amplify DNA from Phragmites with the hopes of ultimately finding and characterizing genes whose expressed products are involved in metal transport.  She has designed primers to amplify sequences coding for iron, copper, lead, and zinc transporters, as well as metallothioneins.  Julia Zorn (’12) has continued this project. 


Click here for a picture and an abstract of a poster  presented at the Northeast Regional Convention of the National Biological Society, Tri-Beta in April 2011.  Ms. Nichole Walker, who presented the poster, won third place for her poster.  Congratulations, Nichole!

Click here for an abstract of a poster presented at the National Conference of the American Association of Plant Biologists in August 2010. 

Favorite Links:

My lifeline to the research world, NCBI (Pubmed):

A great resource for biology students and scientists:

Helpful general biology online textbooks:

Why do people say to eat your vitamins?  This site will tell you why:

Didn't think plants could move, huh? Look at this movie of cytoplasmic streaming on YouTube:


My favorite animation out there, The Living Cell created at Harvard:

All you want to know about Arabidopsis and more, at The Arabidopsis Information Resource :

American Society of Plant Biologists:

Check out my sister's website.  She's an Associate Professor of Music Theory at Scripp's College:

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