J. Chris Pires

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Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

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research description:
Research in our lab broadly encompasses plant evolutionary biology—from phylogenetic studies in plant diversity to genome-wide analyses of gene expression. Current investigations are directed at molecular systematics and comparative genomics (phylogenomics), with a particular focus on the evolution of polyploid plants. Polyploidy, the process of genome doubling that gives rise to organisms with multiple sets of chromosomes is a major evolutionary force in both plants and animals. Many important crop plants—such as alfalfa, cotton, potato, and wheat—are obvious polyploids while others—such as maize, soybean, and cabbage—retain the vestiges of ancient polyploid events. My leading conceptual questions pertain to the consequences of genome doubling, such as deciphering the mechanisms that give rise to novel morphological or ecological features found in polyploids. Understanding the pattern of how such novelty might arise requires an understanding of the evolutionary history of polyploid plants and their diploid relatives.
relevant courses:
AN_SCI 7001/BIO_SCI 7002 Molecular Evolution (co-taught with Gavin Conant)
Spring semester: Plant Systematics