Auburn University and HudsonAlpha announce joint faculty

Published: March 03, 2020
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HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Auburn University are forging a new collaboration through the addition of a joint research faculty member.

Alex Harkess joins the Auburn University College of Agriculture as a faculty member in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and joins HudsonAlpha as a faculty investigator. He will have a research lab at HudsonAlpha in Huntsville.

Harkess, who specializes in plant reproductive, evolutionary and comparative genomics, joins HudsonAlpha and Auburn after four years with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. Harkess was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Danforth, conducting research focused on the evolution and function of small RNA pathways, the evolution of sex chromosomes in plants, and broad-scale comparative genomics.

HudsonAlpha’s work in plant genomics includes research looking for genetic markers that can help make agriculture more efficient through increased yields, improved disease resistance and reduced water use.

“This joint position marks the start of a renewed collaboration with Auburn University that will help develop a pipeline for graduate student education as well as strengthen our outreach to agriculture breeders and producers,” said Richard M. Myers, president and science director of HudsonAlpha. “Graduate students will take classes in plant genomics at Auburn and conduct their research in HudsonAlpha laboratories.”

In addition to full time lab employees, Harkess will host a nine-week funded summer position at HudsonAlpha for Alabama undergrad or master’s students interested in plant evolutionary genomics.

“We are excited to have Dr. Harkess join our faculty and to partner with HudsonAlpha in this collaborative effort,” said Paul Patterson, dean of the Auburn University College of Agriculture. “Dr. Harkess will join a team of scientists who will work toward developing new plant varieties and cultivars to enhance the profitability and sustainability of Alabama agriculture. This collaborative effort will also greatly enhance our education programs, which are developing the next generation of agricultural scientists and leaders.”

Harkess earned his doctorate from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s in botany from the University of Miami.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.