A key question in biology is how organisms “adapt” or acquire environment-dependent fitness advantages. Plants must grow fast enough to compete with their neighbors, while maintaining appropriate defenses to survive in the presence of pathogens. Understanding how plants make the "decision" to keep safe from harm while growing is crucial to our quest for an abundant food supply and cheap, dependable sources of energy. In my laboratory we utilize of a complex array of technologies to understand how light and growth hormones signals allow plants to optimize the fluctuating investments they are making towards growth and defense in specific cells and organs but also at the population level. The laboratory aims at training a new breed of scientists who will not only be able to integrate plant developmental processes in the face of plant defenses but will also understand plant defense responses in the context of environmental (light) and endogenous cues (hormones).