Susan McCouch is known for developing the first molecular genetic map of rice and for her key and sustained role in turning rice into a model for genetics and breeding research. She is the Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University. Her lab has explored extensively the genotypic diversity of wild and cultivated Oryza species, championing the use of loci from wild relatives to improve complex phenotypes in domesticated rice. Her pioneering efforts to develop and share molecular and informatics tools and resources have accelerated rice breeding worldwide. McCouch grew up in Concord, MA and received a BA in Hispanic Studies from Smith College and an M.S. in Plant Pathology from the University of Massachusetts. She received her PhD from Cornell in 1990 and spent 5 years with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines before joining the Cornell faculty in 1995. She has contributed extensively to educational initiatives and international outreach, and been recognized by numerous teaching, research and faculty awards. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

The McCouch lab investigates the extent, distribution, and phenotypic consequences of natural variation in rice, with emphasis on the genetic basis of complex traits including disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, maturity and yield, and grain quality. She works closely with gene banks to develop pre-breeding resources, and collaborates with breeders, most notably in developing countries, to implement precision breeding in rice improvement. In collaboration with USDA colleagues, she recently released the first red-pericarp rice variety in the U.S., a wild-derived trait conferring improved flavor and nutritional quality. She was a founding member of the Gramene database and more recently, has taken on global leadership in the integration of single-nucleotide markers and advanced bioinformatics to accelerate breeding at the major developing world crop research and improvement centers in Asia, Africa and South America. Her efforts provide a critical foundation for rapid trait identification and cultivar development, necessary for the food and nutritional security of the word?s growing population.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences