Joy M. Bergelson

The University of Chicago


Election Year: 2018
Primary Section: 25, Plant Biology
Secondary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Membership Type: Member

Biosketch

Joy Bergelson’s laboratory is best known for dispelling the long-held belief that arms race dynamics typify the evolution of plant resistance to microbial pathogens in nature. An early researcher in the ecology and evolution of Arabidopsis thaliana, Bergelson’s group introduced the use of genetically manipulated plants to disentangle mechanisms driving evolutionary dynamics and helped forge research at the interface of ecological and evolutionary genetics. Bergelson was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up in Metuchen, NJ. She graduated from Brown University in 1984 with a degree in Biology and then won a Marshall Fellowship to obtain an MPhil from the University of York, UK, followed by a PhD in 1990 from the University of Washington. Bergelson was a Demonstrator in Ecology at Oxford University and, in 1992, began a faculty position at Washington University in St. Louis. She moved to The University of Chicago in 1994, where she is currently the James D Watson professor and Chair of its Department of Ecology and Evolution. Bergelson received a Packard Fellowship, Presidential Faculty fellowship and Cheung Kong Scholar Honorary Professorship for her work and has served as the AAAS Biology Section Chair in Biology. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Joy Bergelson’s laboratory is interested in the ecological and evolutionary forces shaping plant-pathogen coevolution. Her work blends field biology with molecular genetics and molecular evolutionary studies on the host plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, and its enemies. The Bergelson lab is responsible for revealing an evolutionarily stable stalemate manifest as ancient balanced polymorphisms for resistance and susceptibility alleles segregating at many R genes in A. thaliana’s genome. Dissection of the forces driving balancing selection provided early evidence of ecological dynamics shaping patterns of molecular evolution and of ecological complexity providing constraints that enable the maintenance of genetic variability. Her laboratory has promoted the use of increased genetic controls in ecological experiments and are responsible for some of the earliest examples of designing transgenic plants to test evolutionary hypotheses, such as their demonstration of pleiotropic costs of resistance. With the goal of identifying ecologically important genes, her laboratory group has also collaborated in the development of Arabidopsis as a system for GWAS mapping and studies of natural variation. In the course of this research, she has amassed and curated thousands of accessions that provide mapping populations and have facilitated the 1001 genomes project for the Arabidopsis community.

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