The Department of Genetics was established — as the “Department of Experimental Breeding” — in 1910. It was the first such department in the United States. The department owes its creation to the vision and persuasive powers of William D. Hoard, who was largely responsible for making Wisconsin “America’s Dairyland.”

In 1871, Hoard suddenly realized that the soil of Wisconsin was more suitable as pasture than as wheat land, and he became “the apostle of the dairy cow” in Wisconsin.

In 1885, he founded Hoard’s Dairyman, a trade magazine that still serves the dairy industry today. Hoard’s fame grew, and, in 1889, he became governor of Wisconsin. Eight years later, he became a UW regent and used his considerable influence to pressure for the creation of a department devoted to the study of agricultural animal breeding.

The earliest members of this department were, however, soon active in the eugenics movement advocating for marriage restriction and forced sterilization, a legacy of the department discussed here.


Harry L. Russell, the Agriculture Dean, enthusiastically supported William D. Hoard’s suggestion and hired a promising young animal geneticist, Leon J. Cole, to serve as the first chair (and, for eight years, the sole faculty member) of a new Department of Experimental Breeding. Cole was a leader in establishing the academic standards that made Wisconsin one of the world’s leading centers for graduate education in biology. At the same time, he and other contemporary university faculty contributed to the growing eugenics movement in Wisconsin and lent expert credence to Progressive Movement’s forced sterilization and marriage restriction laws. The department’s involvement is more fully documented in the ‘Grappling with Our Past’ page.

Leon J. Cole (1877-1948)
Active at UW Genetics: 1910 – 1947 R

Genetics of birds, small mammals, and cattle. First chair of Genetics, and the sole faculty member for the first eight years. Pioneer in Genetics graduate education and in bird-banding as a field research method. Compiled an outstanding collection of genetics reprints that is still available as a resource to history of science scholars. Founder of the Department of Genetics and Chairman from 1910 to 1939. At the same time, Cole did lasting harm to the people of Wisconsin by promoting toxic eugenic thought and legislation, such as the Wisconsin forced sterilization statutes, as discussed in ‘Grappling with Our Past’.

Earnest W. Lindstrom (1891-1948)
Active at UW Genetics:1919 -1922

Genetics of maize. Was a leader in the development of hybrid corn. Prominent in the genetics community. In 1922, moved to Iowa State University. In 1942, served as President of the Genetics Society of America.


Alex Brink, who joined Genetics in 1922, initiated a program for developing hybrid corn for Wisconsin, a program later largely taken over by Norman Neal. Later, Brink developed a winter-hardy variety of alfalfa, called Vernal. These two projects had enormous impact on the profitability of farming in the state.

R. Alexander Brink (1897-1984)
Active at UW Genetics: 1922 – 1968 R

Maize genetics. Developed hybrid corn for Wisconsin farms. Produced winter-hardy alfalfa that transformed Wisconsin agriculture. Did pioneer work on transposable genetic elements and on paramutation. Remained active in research until his death. Chairman 1939-1955. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1947.


Bob Irwin, who joined the department in 1930, was a pioneer in immunogenetics — indeed, he coined the term. Irwin and collaborators provided tools for paternity testing in cattle, tools that proved invaluable to the development of the dairy industry in the Dairy State.

In 1938 W.K. Smith and R. A. Brink showed that fermented sweetclover was toxic to cattle because it contained a bitter substance, coumarin, that, when the sweetclover was stored at high temperature, was converted to a poison causing a fatal bleeding disease in cattle that ate the fermented feed. Smith managed to produce a non-bitter, coumarin-free sweetclover that could safely be used for cattle feed. This work led to the development, by Karl Paul Link, of Warfarin, a rodenticide, and dicoumarol, an anticoagulent used to prevent dangerous blood clotting in human patients.

M. Robert Irwin (1897-1987)
Active in UW Genetics: 1930 – 1978 R

Immunogenetics (He coined the name of the field.) Developed immunological methods for ascertaining paternity in cattle. Chairman 1955-1964. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in1950.

Lester E. Casida (1904-1986)
Active in UW Genetics: 1934 – 1972

Reproductive physiology. Studied effects of nutrition, hormones, and genetic factors on reproduction in agricultural animals. International impact on animal agriculture methods, including artificial insemination. Performed the first embryo transplant leading to live birth in cattle. Over sixty students received Ph.D. degrees under his tutelage, and many went on to become leaders in the field of animal science and reproductive physiology. Honored by numerous professional societies including the American Chemical Society and the American Society of Animal Science. Moved to Animal Science in 1972 and retired in 1974.

Gordon E. Dickerson (1912-2000)
Active at UW Genetics: 1934 – 1941

Research on animal breeding using biometric methods. Studied inbreeding and heterosis in livestock and used population genetics theory to develop methods for animal improvement using systematic cross-breeding among other schemes. Moved from UW to Ames Iowa in 1941 and later moved to U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.

Norman P. Neal (1897-1989)
Active in UW Genetics: 1936 –1967 R

Student of R. A. Brink. Took over leadership of the hybrid corn breeding project and became one of the most productive corn breeders in the world. He did the foundation crosses for supplying hybrid seed to Wisconsin farmers. Supplied stocks to France because of similarity in latitude. Had a major impact on the agricultural economy of the state of Wisconsin.

Gustav H. Rieman (1902 -1961)
Active at UW: 1936 – 1961

Potato geneticist who was one of the developers of the Superior variety that is still in much demand today. Worked in collaboration with D. C. Cooper, Stanley Peloquin, and Robert Hougas. President of the Potato Association of America in 1952. Suffered a fatal heart attack while working in his experimental plot in Rhinelander.

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W. K. Smith (1900-1985)
Active at UW Genetics: 1937 – 1965 R

Agricultural geneticist whose work on sweet clover led to the development of a non-toxic variety of great importance to dairly farmers. Along with R.A. Brink, Smith discovered that the toxic substance in sweet clover was coumarin. Karl Paul Link and Mark Stahman capitalized on this discovery when they developed the rat poison, Warfarin, and the medical anti-coagulant, dicoumarol.

Arthur B. Chapman (1908-2004)
Active at UW Genetics: 1939 – 1972

Inspired by Sewall Wright’s writings on quantitative animal breeding and biostatistics, Chapman applied animal breeding theory and did research on inbreeding and selection for the improvement of livestock. Transferred to Meat and Animal Science in 1972 and retired in 1975.


Ray Owen discovered that non-identical twin cattle with connections between their circulatory systems produced blood cells that were genetically like those of both twins. As adults, similar cattle would have rejected transfusions from each other, but embryos developed tolerance to cells originating in their genetically distinct twins. When the discovery of immunological tolerance received a Nobel Prize many years later, Peter Medewar, one of the recipients, wrote to Owen to acknowledge his original contribution and to express regrets that the prize committee failed to recognize Owen’s pioneering work.

Bill Stone, who joined the department in 1948 as a graduate student and remained here for 35 years, was one of Bob Irwin’s collaborators in taking the science of immunogenetics to the agricultural and medical fields. And he developed both of our 100-level introductory genetics courses.

In 1948, James Crow became a member of the department. He became a legendary teacher, textbook author, and researcher.

Delmer C. Cooper (1896-1969)
Active at UW Genetics: 1942 – 1966 R

Plant cytogeneticist. Collaborated with R. A. Brink in studying fertilization and development in plants. Described cell divisions during seed development and causes of developmental failure in interspecific crosses. Collaborated with Rieman, Hougas, and Peloquin in developing the Superior variety of potato, still grown today.

Ray D. Owen
Active at UW Genetics: 1943 – 1947

Immunogenetics. Discovered immunological tolerance in twin cattle. With Adrian Srb, wrote one of the best and most popular genetics textbooks ever published. In 1947, moved from UW to Caltech, where he continued to do research in immunology, earned a reputation as a brilliant educator, and played a prominent role as a campus administrator. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1966.

Joshua Lederberg (1925-2008)
Active at UW Genetics: 1947 – 1958

Discovered genetic recombination in bacteria. Discovered that donor ability in E. coli is due to a plasmid — the first plasmid described in bacteria. Invented replica plating. His lab discovered transduction and bacteriophage lambda. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1957 and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1958. Founded the Department of Medical Genetics at UW in 1957 and served as its first chair. He moved in 1959 to Stanford University and later to Rockefeller University, where he was President. He became a founding member of the Institute of Medicine in 1970.

Richard M. Shackelford (1915-2007)
Active at UW Genetics: 1947 – 1984 R

Studied genetics of fur-bearing mammals, with special emphasis on mink. Also worked on fox, rabbit, and chinchilla. Studied color variation in small mammals and developed new shades that were adopted by commercial mink breeders. Studied reproductive physiology and cytology of fur-bearing animals. Developed blood typing methods for mink and showed immune tolerance similar to that discovered in cattle.Well known for his outreach to mink breeders in Wisconsin.

W. Elwood Briles
Active at UW Genetics: 1947 – 1947

Immunogenetics of chickens. Has studied the genetics of blood groups, histocompatibility, immunity to viruses and other pathogens. In 1947, moved to University of Texas after completing degree in Madison. Later moved to Northern Illinois University, from which he retired in 1987.

James F. Crow (1916-2012)
Active at UW Genetics: 1948 – 1986 R

Experimental and theoretical population genetics. Studied genetics of DDT resistance in Drosophila.  Theoretical contributions on effects of mutation on fitness in populations, inbreeding, evolution. Author of Genetics Notes, a widely used genetics text and, with Kimura, of Introduction to Population Genetics Theory, a classic in the field. Chairman 1965-1971. President, Genetics Society of America, 1960. Many honors, including the National Academy of Sciences,1961, the Institute of Medicine, 1973, and UCSD/Merck Life SciencesLifetime Achievement Award, 2009.

Robert W. Hougas (1918-2009)
Active at UW Genetics: 1949 – 1984 R

Genetics of potatoes. Worked on wild and cultivated varieties. Helped to develop methods for using haploid potatoes to accelerate breeding improvements. Was Associate Dean for Research in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for many years. Outstanding administrator.


In 1950,  Genetics Notes by James F. Crow made its appearance. This became one of the most popular genetics textbooks of all time and was translated into many languages. The 8th and last edition of the book appeared in 1983. Problems from the book continue to be used in genetics courses to this day.

In the early 1950’s, Alex Brink initiated studies of unstable genetic loci in maize, working on this problem at about the same time as Barbara McClintock. The basis for the genetic instability turned out to be transposable genetic elements. McClintock received the Nobel Prize for her work on this subject, and Brink affirmed that she deserved credit for the discovery of these elements. But Brink undoubtedly deserves credit for having written much more easily understood papers on this subject.

Joshua Lederberg joined the Department of Genetics in 1947 as a brand new Ph.D. graduate of Yale University. His thesis research on bacterial genetics, together with the work that he did in Madison over the next eight or nine years, earned Lederberg the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1958. Lederberg had begun his journey to the Ph.D. degree as a medical student and believed that genetics research would transform medical science. He urged the University of Wisconsin Medical School to create a Department of Medical Genetics, which was established, with Lederberg as its first chair, in 1957.  Although it was not the first such department in the country, it was among the earliest. After he won the Nobel Prize in 1958, Lederberg was offered an irresistible position at Stanford University and moved to California in 1959. The department that he founded here in Madison flourished and is now part of the renowned Laboratory of Genetics.

In the late 1950s, Stanley Peloquin, Bob Hougas, and collaborators developed new methods for the genetic improvement of potatoes, which affected not only Wisconsin agriculture, but also had worldwide impact.
Sewall Wright came to Wisconsin in 1955 after reaching mandatory retirement age at the University of Chicago and remained active in science until he was almost 100 years old. He is widely recognized as one of the “Fathers of Population Genetics.” In the years he spent in Madison, he wrote the immense and definitive four-volume , “Evolution and the Genetics of Populations,” the first volume of which was published in 1968. The fourth volume appeared in 1978. Professor Wright published his last paper in 1988, the year in which he died at the age of 99.

In 1959, Jim Crow and colleagues (especially Yuichiro Hiraizumi) discovered and characterized meiotic drive in Drosophila. This is caused by Segregaton distorter (Sd), a “selfish” mutation that violates the rules of Mendelian genetics.

Robert DeMars joined the Genetics faculty in 1959 and did pioneering work in developing methods for studying human genetics by using laboratory cultured cells. This work led to many important discoveries about genetic disorders, including cancer, and about gene regulation in humans. In 1980, DeMars reported the isolation of deletion mutations affecting the human major histocompatibility locus. These mutations have been used by DeMars and other labs around the world to analyze the workings of the immune system. In 2007, Bob DeMars, in his retirement, and colleagues demonstrated recombination by genetic transfer in Chlamydia.

Wilber J. “Tip” Tyler
Active at UW Genetics: 1951 – 1985 R

Statistical approaches to animal breeding with special emphasis on improvement of milk quality and quantity in cattle. Studied oestrus cycle, fertility, and hormone influences in dairy cattle. Collaborated with Casida, Chapman, Irwin, and Stone.

William H. Stone
Active at UW Genetics: 1954 – 1983

Immunogenetics. Studied the blood groups and transplantation immunology in cattle and other large mammals, which contributed greatly to the cattle-breeding industry in Wisconsin. Developed the marsupial,Monodelphis domestica, as an immunogenetics model. Has worked also on primates and birds. In 1983, moved to Trinity University in San Antonio as Cowles Distinguished Professor of Biology. He is now retired from the Trinity faculty and is doing research at the Hospital Sant Pau in Barcelona. Most recently has been working on genetic factors affecting thrombosis.

Sewall Wright (1889-1988)
Active at UW Genetics: 1955 – 1960 R

One of the Fathers of Population Genetics, Sewall Wright came to Madison after retiring from the University of Chicago and spent the next 33years working on theoretical population genetics. During his time here, he wrote the comprehensive four-volumeEvolution and the Genetics of Populations.Dr. Wright continued to work until 1988, the year in which he died, and published his last paper in that year. He received many honors including numerous honorary doctorates and the Natonal Medal of Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1934.

Newton Morton
Active at UW Genetics: 1956 – 1961

Population genetics and a pioneering researcher in genetic epidemiology. Invented the lod score for ascertaining genetic linkage in humans. Moved in 1961 from UW to University of Hawaii. At the University of Southampton since 1988.

Laurence Sandler (1929-1987)
Active at UW Genetics: 1958 – 1961

Masterful Drosophila geneticist who devoted much of his career to the study of meiotic drive — the asymmetric inheritance of homologous chromosomes in which one member of the pair carries a mutation that interferes with the transmission of its homologue. In 1961, moved from the University of Wisconsin to the University of Washington. Outstanding teacher who trained many distinguished geneticists including Barry Ganetzky.

Ernst Freese (1925-1990)
Active at UW Genetics: 1959 – 1962

Theoretical physicist who turned his attention to genetics and did pioneering studies on the mechanisms of mutation. Studied induced mutation in bacteriophage and noted the existence of mutagen-specific sites within genes and mutational hotspots. Surmised, on basis of his studies, that there are many mutations that are neutral with respect to their effect on  fitness — an idea the anticipated the later theoretical work of Motoo Kimura. Moved in 1962 from UW to NIH.

Robert I. DeMars
Active at UW Genetics: 1959 – 1997 R

Pioneer in the use of cultured cells to study the genetics of humans. Worked on X-chromosome regulation, analyzed several biochemical disorders, developed powerful methods for studying mutation in cultured cells. Turned his attention to the genes controlling histocompatability and the immune response and isolated deletion mustations that were used by him and other worldwide to dissect these immune system genes. After retirement has continued to do research, turning his attention to the genetics of Chlamydia.


From 1957 until 1965, the Departments of Genetics and Medical Genetics were distinct administrative units, each with its own chair and its own executive committee. This cumbersome arrangement ended in 1965 when the two departments were given permission to create an umbrella organization, the Laboratory of Genetics, which contains both departments but has a single chair and a single executive committee. Although the Laboratory still reports to two deans and answers to two college-level business offices, this administrative duality has almost no effect on the daily lives of staff and students.

In 1960 Oliver Smithies, already famous for his invention of starch gel electrophoresis, joined the faculty.

Masayasu Nomura did one landmark experiment after another on the structure and function of the ribosome. His discoveries, including the first in vitro reassembly of a ribosomal subunit from its separated components, made him the acknowledged “Father of the Ribosome.”

Julius Adler used genetic methods to discover the receptors on bacterial surfaces that account for the ability of the bugs to sense attractive or repulsive chemicals in the environment, and subsequently identified the components of the signal transduction machinery that connects the swimming apparatus to the sensory apparatus.

At the beginning of the 1960’s, faculty in the growing Laboratory of Genetics were housed in several buildings scattered across campus. In 1963, the Laboratory was unified in the newly built building at 445 Henry Mall.

In the late 1960’s, postdoctoral researcher Motoo Kimura and his advisor Jim Crow developed the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution. This important mathematical framework describes predictions based on genetic drift for genetic variation within species and DNA sequence divergence between species, based on the assumption that a large majority of genetic variants are neutral (unaffected by natural selection). Today, Kimura and Crow’s work remains an indispensable theoretical foundation and statistical null hypothesis in the field of population genetics.

Charles Cotterman (1914-1989)
Active at UW Genetics: 1960 – 1984 R

Brilliant theoretical geneticist. Did early work on cattle blood groups using plant lectins as specific precipitins. Using combinatorial methods, developed new mathematical concepts in the analysis of inbreeding and genetic relationship. Founding editor of The American Journal of Human Genetics.

Julius Adler
Active at UW Genetics: 1960 – 1995 R

Pioneer in genetic analysis of behavior, using chemotaxis in bacteria as the target of investigation. First to identify sensory receptors on bacterial surfaces. Analyzed response mechanisms using genetic tools. Is continuing to do research, now studying decision-making mechanism in Drosophilaby finding mutants that are unable to make decisions. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978

Klaus Patau (1908-1975)
Active at UW Genetics: 1960 – 1975

Cytogeneticist who studied human chromosomes. Discovered two human trisomies —for chromosomes 13 and 18 — by looking for patients with mental retardation and multiple other developmental abnormalities. Trisomy 13 is named the Patau Syndrome.

Oliver Smithies
Active at UW Genetics: 1960 – 1988

Invented starch gel electophoresis. Used that technique to study human protein variation and discovered haptoglobin variants that resulted from unequal crossing over. Early researcher in genetic engineering. Developed methods for targeted gene replacement in mice, which has been invaluable in analysis of gene function. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1971 and the Institute of Medicine in 2003. Nobel Laureate in Medicine 2007. In 1988, moved from UW to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Seymour D. Abrahamson
Active at UW Genetics: 1960 – 1996 R

Mutation in Drosophila. Biological effects of radiation and other mutagens. Detailed analysis of mutation at various stages of gamete formation — dose response, point mutations versus rearrangements, effects of environmental factors. Medical genetic effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Has contributed extensively to teaching in Genetics.

Millard Susman
Active at UW Genetics: 1962 – 2002 R

Worked on the genetics of bacteriophage development and studied the effects of acridine dyes on phage growth. Active in undergraduate and graduate education. One of the founders of the Biology Core Curriculum. Served as Director of the Center for Biology Educatoin. Served as Genetics Chair for 14 years, Associate Dean of the Medical School for 9 years. Co-authored two popular books: Life on Earth, an introductory biology text, and Human Chromosomes: Structure, Behavior, and Effects, the latter with Eeva Therman, who was the principal author.

Stanley Peloquin (1921-2008)
Active at UW Genetics: 1962 – 1994 R

Potato geneticist who used innovative genetic methods to accelerate response to selection. Developed methods for growing haploid potato plants and for introgressing genes from wild varieties into agricultural strains. Developed methods for growing potatoes from seed to avoid transfer of infection that sometimes attends growth from cuttings. Leader in program to preserve genetic variation by storing wild varieties.Tranined many students who are agricultural leaders throughout the world. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1984

Masayasu Nomura (1927-2011)
Active at UW Genetics: 1963 – 1984

One of the world’s leaders in the study of ribosome structure and function. First to demonstrate that the cycle of joining and separation of the 30S and 50S subunits of the ribosome reflects the initiation and termination of protein synthesis. First to accomplish the complete assembly of a ribosomal subunit (30S) from its separated RNA and protein components. Analyzed the regulation of the genes that encode the parts of the ribosome. Now working on similar problems in eukaryotic (yeast) ribosomes. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978. In 1984, moved from UW to University of California-Irvine.

Jerry Kermicle
Active at UW Genetics: 1963 – 1999 R

Maize geneticist. Has analyzed the structure and behavior of complex loci in corn. Studied the instability of expression resulting from transposon association with genetic loci. Demonstrated genetic imprinting in which gene expression in a plant differs depending on whether the gene came from the male or female parent. Has studied  cross compatibility in corn and its relatives and evolutionary implications of incompatibility.

Allen S. Fox (1921 -1977)
Active at UW Genetics: 1963 – 1977

Worked on Neurospora and Drosophilagenetics. Applied immunological  and biochemical methods to analysis of mating type functions in Neurospora and sexes inDrosophila. Found immunological differences in flies that correlated with eye color, maleness, and, in some cases, with interaction between alleles. Pioneered efforts to transform Drosophila genetically by treating eggs with donor DNA and found positive, but unstable, effects of the treatment. This was a very early attempt at genetic engineering of eukaryotes.

Edwin Azen
Active at UW Genetics: 1963 – 2004 R

Pioneered research on the genetics of human salivary proteins. Studied genetic polymorphisms in these proteins and followed up with animal studies to show connections between these proteins and taste sensation.

John M. Opitz
Active at UW Genetics: 1964 – 1979

Clinical geneticist. Widely considered to be one of the world’s leaders in nosology of human genetic disorders. Used his background in embryology to shed light on the pleiotropic nature of many mutations affecting humans. Describer of many syndromes. Deeply interested in history of medical genetics. Founded the Clinical Genetics Unit at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1979, moved to Montana State University-Bozeman. Since 1998 has been at the University of Utah Medical School.

Jan Hirschfeld
Active at UW Genetics: 1964 – 1970

Immunologist interested in blood groups in humans. Studied human variation by using immuno-gel electrophoresis to characterize serum proteins. While in Madison, collaborated with Oliver Smithies. Wrote papers on the logic of interpretation of serological reactions. In 1970, returned to Sweden. Died a few years later in a tragic accident.

Richard H. Osborne (1920-2005)
Active at UW Genetics: 1964 – 1985 R

Physical anthropologist who used genetics to study human variation. Interested in the concept of race and its relation to heredity.

Fritz H. Bach (1934-2011)
Active at UW Genetics: 1965 – 1979

Early researcher on transplantation immunology. Developed in vitro assays for histocompatibility that supported the first efforts of the Medical School to do organ transplantation. Has continued to work on transplantation immunology and, recently, has directed his attention to xenotransplantation, trying to find ways to avoid rejection of organs transplanted from animal donors into humans. In 1979, moved to the University of Minnesota and later to Harvard.

William F. Dove
Active at UW Genetics: 1965-

Versatile researcher who began his career as a phage geneticist, studying the regulaton of gene expresson in bacteriophage lambda. Later, decided to work on a eukaryote and studied gene expression in the syncytial slime mold, Physarum polycephalum. In recent years, he has turned his attention to the genetics of colon cancer in mice, rats, and humans.  Professor Dove was a founding faculty teacher in the Biology Core Curriculum and long served as the Director of the Genetics Training Program. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998.

Gary Craven (1935 – 1986)
Active at UW Genetics: 1966 – 1986

Before coming to Madison, worked on the structure and function of the b–galactosidase of E. coli.  Upon setting up his lab here, he directed his attention to the components of the ribosome. The methods of the time were crude, but ingenious. Reagents that attached inactivating adjuncts to proteins or that cross-linked proteins that lay close together in molecular complexes were used to determine structural features of the ribosome. Craven was a master of this sort of experimentation. He was also a dedicated educator and led a heroic effort to increase the effectiveness of our graduate curriculum.

Kenneth Munkres
Active in UW Genetics: 1967 – 1995 R

Used Neurospora to study the comparmentalization of enzymes in living cells. He studied the biology of aging. Isolated mutations that affected the longevity of the fungus, such as mutations in superoxide dismutase, to demonstrate that oxidative damage appears to play a significant role in the aging of cells.

Daniel L. Hartl
Active at UW Genetics: 1968 – 1968

Was an instructor in Genetics for a short time after completing his Ph.D. studies under J. F. Crow. Went to UC-Berkeley for postdoctoral studies. Since then has been on the faculty of U. Of Minnesota, Purdue, Washington University (Chair of Genetics), and Harvard. Research in population genetics. Author of several outstanding texts.

Oliver Nelson (1920-2001)
Active at UW Genetics: 1969 – 1990 R

Came to Madison from Purdue, which he left because he could not abide the Dean of Agriculture, Earl Butz. First plant geneticist to produce a fine-structure map of a gene. Used mutations expressed in pollen so that the mapping statistics were almost as good as those from crosses using microbes. Developed high lysine corn, which has provided high quality protein diets for populations that derive most of their nutrition from maize. In collaboration with Nina Federoff, used transposon tagging to produce the first clone of a plant gene. Served as Chair of Genetics from 1986 to 1989.  Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1972.


During the 1970’s, Renata Laxova organized the Statewide Genetic Services Network, a coordinated system of service providers with a “genetics contact” in every county of the state. This was the first such service in the nation and served as a model for numerous such services later established throughout the country.  In 1972 John Opitz and Jurgen Herrmann founded the Clinical Genetics Unit.

In 1975 the interdepartmental PhD Training Program in Genetics was initiated. This is the oldest and largest such training program in the United States.

In 1979, William Engels showed that transposable elements, the so-called P elements, were responsible for the abnormalities — infertility, high mutation rate, chromosome instability — that occur in the offspring of wild-caught Drosophila males mated to females from laboratory stocks. P elements have subsequently become a widely-used vector for genetically engineering flies. Engels’s studies of the insertion and transfer of P elements have shed light on DNA repair and recombination mechanisms.

Carter Denniston (1938-2005)
Active at UW: 1970 – 2005

Theoretical geneticist who advanced Cotterman’s mathematics of K-coefficients and worked in collaboration with several members of the department: Crow, Therman, and Azen. Masterful teacher, who taught genetic counseling students, Biocore students, general genetics students, and population geneticists. Served as Chair of Genetics from 1989 to 1996. Served on several committees of the National Academy of Sciences and made major contributions to reports on the biological effects of radiation.

Jan Rapacz (1928-2013)
Active at UW: 1971 – 2004 R

Immunogeneticist who worked on blood groups in cattle, mink, and other animals. His major research contribution, however, was in studying the genetics of lipoproteins in pigs. He developed swine, and especially mini-pigs, as an experimental model for studying the genetics of atherosclerosis. Collaborated widely with faculty from Genetics, Animal Sciences, and the Medical School.

Jurgen Herrmann
Active at UW: 1973 – 1979 R

Helped John Opitz to establish the Clinical Genetics Unit in Medical Genetics and Pediatrics. Identified a number of genetic dysmorphology syndromes. Moved to the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and then, four years later, established a private medical genetics practice in Milwaukee.


Renata Laxova
Active at UW: 1973 – 1998 R

Clinical geneticist who played a major role in the development of genetics services for Wisconsin citizens throughout the state. Created the Statewide Genetic Services Network that provided a genetics contact in every county and organized traveling clinics to provide care for people in every one of those counties. This network served as a model for similar networks subsequently established nationwide. Helped to create the masters degree program for Genetics Counselors, which is one of the oldest and best in the country.  Renowned teacher of medical genetics who has taught medical students, genetic counelsors, and medical residents.

Ching Kung
Active at UW: 1974-2016R

Pioneer in research on the sensory mechanisms of cells. Developed patch clamp methods to study the genetics and electrophysiology of ion channels in bacteria, yeast, and ciliates. The primary focus of the current research in the lab is on channels involved in mechanosensation.

Frederick Blattner
Active at UW: 1974 –

One of the early leaders of the genomics revolution. He was the first geneticist to propose sequencing the entire genome of E. coli and became the geneticist who actually succeeded in doing that. Research is aimed at understanding the genetics of E. coli by determining in detail the sequence of its genes, the regulation of gene expression, and the interactions among genes. Genomic studies of bacterial evolution. Has contributed to the development of genomics technology and of software to analyze DNA sequences.

Eeva Therman (1916-2004)
Active at UW: 1975 – 1986 R

Cytogeneticist. Started career in Finland as a plant geneticist. Became interested in cancer genetics and turned her attention to humans. Joined the Klaus Patau lab in 1959, married Patau in 1961, and remained a research associate for many years while publishing extensively on cancer cytogenetics, X-chromosome anomalies and sex development, and other subjects. Wrote a textbook, Human Chromosomes: Structure, Behavior, and Effects, that was for many years the authoritative text on the subject. Because of archaic nepotism rules, Therman could not become a member of the faculty until Klaus Patau died in 1975. She was, however, a major figure in the field of human cytogenetics.

R. Rafael Elejalde
Active at UW: 1975 – 1979

Clinical geneticist who worked in the Clinical Genetics Unit and studied human chromosomes. Moved to Milwaukee and established a private practice in genetic diagnosis and counseling.

Joan Burns
Active at UW: 1976  – 1998 R

Trained both in social work and medical genetics, Joan Burns was an early leader in the creation of the genetic counseling profession. She organized the UW training program for genetic counselors, which is one of the oldest and best such programs in the United States. She has been a national leader in establishing standards for graduate education in genetic counseling and in advocating for increased use of genetic counselors in providing medical care.

William R. Atchley
Active at UW: 1977 – 1986

Computational biology and evolution. Uses statistical methods to study problems in development, gene expression, interactions within networks of genes.  Applies computational methods to analyze evolutionary pattern changes at all levels from molecular to anatomical. Moved from UW to North Carolina State in 1986 and became Chair of Genetics there.

Thomas Leonard
Active at UW: 1978 – 1994

Mycology and developmental genetics. Has worked on a variety of problems involving the regulation of gene expression and development in fungi. His work ranges from efforts to find reliable methods for commercial production of edible fungi, such as morels, to identifying the genes inAspergillus nidulans that are responsible for the production of the sterigmatocystin, a powerful toxin, to analysis of the factors leading to unregulated, cancer-like growths that appear on the mycelia of Schizophyllum commune. Leonard is an outstanding teacher. He moved in 1994 from UW to Clark University to become Chair of Biology.Resumed appointment in Madison as Emeritus in 2008.

Michael R. Culbertson
Active at UW: 1978-2015R

Yeast geneticist. Has studied transcriptional, translational, and post-translational mechanisms controlling gene expression. Demonstrated the existence of frameshift suppressors in yeast that resulted from addition of a base to a tRNA anticodon or from alteration in the function of translation factors. Currently works on nonsense mediated mRNA decay, a genetically complex process, and on a multifunctional enzyme, the nuclear RNA/DNA helicase Sen1p. Serves as Chair of the Laboratory of Genetics and Director of the Office of Graduate Studies and Professional Development in CALS.

Peter Quail
Active at UW: 1979 – 1987

Plant biologist whose research has been directed at understanding photosensory perception and signalling in plants. Studied the photodynamic modification of the protein, phytochrome, which is the light receptor in plants that initiates responses to changes in light intensity. Moved from UW to UC-Berkeley to become Director of USDA Plant Gene Expression Center. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.


Barry Ganetzky
Active at UW: 1979-2016

Drosphila geneticist who has studied two distinct problems. The first is the mechanism by which the mutation, Segregation Distorter, produces meiotic drive. The second is the genetics of the nervous system ofDrosophila. Ganetzky and his colleagues have isolated many mutations affecting behavior in flies. These have been used to identify genes regulating synaptic development and maintenance of neuronal viability and to help in the isolation and characterization of ion channel genes and genes with which they interact. Outstanding teacher of general genetics. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.


Oliver Smithies was an early leader in genetic engineering and ultimately invented a method for “targeted” gene replacement in mice, thus making it possible to produce specific “knockout” mice that could be used to reveal the phenotypic effects of any chosen gene. For this work, he received the Nobel Prize in 2007.

Barry Ganetzky identified genes that affect the nervous system of fruit flies, and Ching Kung did similar work with yeast, bacteria, and ciliates. In 1989 Barry Ganetzky and colleagues cloned the gene for sodium ion channel in Drosophila.

Michael Culbertson (in yeast) and Philip Anderson (in C. elegans) discovered the first genes of the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway.

Richard Spritz, who was on the faculty from 1981 until 1998, studied the molecular basis for human genetic disorders. In 1982, he described a number of mutations that caused thalassemia, including an interesting mutation located in an intron which interfered with mRNA splicing.

In 1986, Raymond Kessel launched the Wisconsin Teacher Enhancement Program (WisTEP) for middle school and high school teachers of biology. It offered hands-on instruction in up-to-date biology techniques and has greatly enriched biology education throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Richard Pauli
Active at UW: 1980 – 2006 R

Clinical geneticist. Has published on a wide range of clinical and laboratory observations related to human development and genetic disorders. Specializes in disorders involving bone dysplasias. Established the Wisconsin Stillbirth Program, a program that recruited and trained personnel at maternity centers throughout the state to gather information and clinical samples from stillborn children. The program provides information on the incidence and etiology of stillbirth and gives feedback to parents to help them understand the causes for their loss and the significance for their family planning. Dr. Pauli directed this program from 1983 until 2009. He taught genetic couselors, medical students, and medical residents.

Paul M. Sondel
Active at UW: 1980 –

Clinical oncologist who specializes in the use of immunological methods to treat cancer. A current project aims at creating hybrid antibodies that, at one end, recognize antigens unique to cancer cells and, at the other, carry a stimulatory signal for NK cells that will attack the tumor to which the antibody is bound. Dr. Sondel has done extensive basic research to analyze the functions of the immune system in vitro and has been involved in many clinical tests of chemotherapeutic agents, transplantation therapies, and targeted immunotherapies.

Richard Spritz
Active at UW: 1981 – 1999

Clinical geneticist with an interest in molecular etiology of inherited diseases. Showed that some thalassemias are caused by mutations in introns rather than in the structural gene and that these mutations interfere with proper splicing. Has done extensive research on the mapping and molecular analysis of genes affecting pigmentation and on other disorders. Moved in 1999 from Madison to the University of Colorado Health Center, where he serves as Director of the Human Medical Genetics Program.

Philip Anderson
Active at UW: 1981 – 2017

Studies the regulation of gene expression, using C. elegans. Emphasis on the regulation of mRNA turnover, which is regulated by genes that have a marked effect of the stability of messages containing nonsense mutations. Also studies the regulation of muscle contraction, using genetic and molecular methods to study ryodine receptors that play a role in controlling the flow of calcium ions in muscle cells.

Natalie Krassikoff
Active at UW: 1982 – 1987

Clincial geneticist who saw patients in the Clinical Genetics Unit during her relatively brief service in Madison and who published several papers on chromosomal abnormalities associated with genetic disorders. Moved from Madison to the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Michael Sussman
Active at UW: 1982 – 

Plant biochemist and geneticist who uses genomic methods to analyze the biology ofArabidopsis. Interested in regulation and gene interaction at all levels of gene expression form transciption to protein activation. Technology innovator who has helped to improve microarray methodology and the application of mass spectrometry to analyze cellular protein and protein interactions. Director of the UW Biotechnology Center.

Rayla Greenberg Temin
Active at UW: 1982 – 2007 R

Drosophila geneticist who has studied the impact of mutation on the fitness of natural populations and, more recently, has investigated the mechanisms of the meiotic drive mutation, Segregation Distorter. In particular, she has analyzed a dominant suppressor of the distorting gene, which restores normal Mendelian ratios. Dr.Temin is a gifted teacher who has taught the introductory genetics course, Genetics 160, for many years and who has mentored numerous undergraduate who have worked as assistants on her research projects.

Judith Kimble
Active at UW: 1983 –

Studies the molecular genetics of development in C. elegans. Has done extensive analysis on the development of the reproductive system of the roundworm and on the molecular regulatory systems that govern differentiation. Was named an HHMI Investigator in 1993 and elected to the National Academy of Sciences in1995.

William Engels
Active at UW: 1983 – 

Studies P elements, which are transposable elements in Drosophila that have remarkable effects on the genetic stability and fitness. The analysis of these genetic elements has shed new light on the mechanisms of DNA repair and recombination. The relatively recent appearance of P elements in natural populations of flies raises interesting questions regarding the role of such destabilizing factors in evolution.

Albert Ellingboe
Active at UW: 1983 – 2008 R

Plant geneticist specializing in the genetics analysis of host-parasite interactions. Isolated mutations showing that specific gene products in the host and the parasite are needed for avirulence. Inactivation of the required genes in either host or pathogen lead to infection. Studied Magnaporthe grisea, a fungal pathogen that causes rice blast disease. It is possible to do genetic and molecular studies both with this pathogen and with its host. These studies produced a remarkable description of avirulence genes in the pathogen and resistance genes in the host and of epistatic factors that affect their function.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Gurbax Singh Sekhon
Active at UW: 1983 – 2002

Cytogenetics. Was associated with the Clinical Genetics Unit and established an on-site cytogenetics unit that used state-of-the –art methods to diagnose chromosome anomalies. Taught the Human Cytogenetics course.

Richard Vierstra
Active at UW: 1984 – 2015

Studies the role of protein turnover in the regulation of cellular function in Arabidopsisand the genetic control of that turnover. Has analyzed the components of the pathway leading to unbiquitin tagging of proteins, which marks them for destruction by proteasomes. Is interested in determining how proteins are selected for ubiquitinization and in determining the role of protein turnover in cellular metabolism.

Allen Laughon
Active at UW: 1987 – 

Drosophila geneticist interested in the genetic regulation of pattern formation during embryogenesis. Specifically, studies cellular signaling by TGF-beta, which influences the activity of Smad proteins which, in turn, enter the nucleus and specifically regulate gene transcription. Professor Laughon currently serves as Associate Chair of the Laboratory of Genetics.

Sean Carroll
Active at UW: 1987 – 

One of the founders of the field known as evo-devo, which focuses on the evolution of genes and genetic regulatory elements that control development. Has shown remarkable conservation of regulatory tool kits that govern pattern formation in animal development. Has written several popular books on evolution, development, and the scientists who pioneered the study of evolution. Much in demand as a lecturer and as a guest on radio and television programs. Recently named as Vice President for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Dr. Carroll continues to do research in Madison as an HHMI Investigator. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007.

Jon Wolff
Active at UW: 1988 – 2008

Clinical geneticist specializing in metabolic disorders. Research on gene therapy. Demonstrated in mice that it was possible to transfer genes from donors to recipients by direct treatment of muscle cells with naked donor DNA. Now investigating ways to improve the efficiency of this gene transfer and to develop methods of targeting DNA to specific organs and tissues. Founded a company to facilitate transfer of this technology from lab to clinic. The company has now been purchased by Roche, and Dr. Wolff remains as head of research. He continues to hold a UW appointment as clinical professor.

Anthony B. Bleecker (1950 – 2005)
Active at UW: 1989 – 2005

Arabidopsis geneticist, who was the first researcher in this field to hold a position on the UW faculty. Played a leading role in the growing community of Arabidopsisresearchers. Did research on ethylene sensitivity and identified the gene for the ethylene receptor, the first plant hormone receptor ever to be identified in plants. Tragically, Dr. Bleecker died of cancer at the early age of 54. Chair of Botany, 2001-2004.

Raymond Kessel
Active at UW: 1989 – 2007 R

Outreach specialist who began his career as a potato geneticist and then became interested in promoting the influence of genetics in many areas of education and public affairs. Played a crucial role in the establishment of the training program for genetic counselors and in the establishment of  the Statewide Genetic Services Network. Paid special attention to serving the Native American population of the state. Promoted public education about fetal alcohol syndrome. Founded the Wisconsin Teacher Enhancement Program in Biology, which has provided educational opportunities for high school and middle school teachers throughout the state. Has played an active role in shaping public priorities for community services and citizen education on genetics and healthcare.


Fred Blattner was one of the first geneticists to tackle the DNA sequencing of entire genomes; it was his lab that produced the first total sequence of E. coli.

Tomas Prolla, who joined the Genetics faculty in 1997, has used genetic arrays to study changes in levels of gene expression that are correlated with aging and with factors that alter the rate of aging in mice and primates.

In 1996, many of the faculty moved their labs to the new Genetics Biotechnology Center.

Patrick Masson
Active at UW: 1991 – 

Arabidopsis geneticist who is interested in the mechanisms by which the plant responds to gravity and touch. Has isolated a number of mutants that show altered responses to these environmental influences and used the mutants to identify the sensory cellular components that govern plant growth and behavior. He was recently (2008) elected to the Belgian Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Arts.

M. Kathryn Barton
Active at UW: 1992 – 2001

Arabidopsis geneticist interested in the genetics of pattern formation in plants. Has used mutations leading to malformations in development in Arabidopsis to identify signaling factors and regulatory elements that play major roles in the formation of plant structures. Moved in 2001 from UW to the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Plant Biology, Stanford University.

Nansi Jo Colley
Active at UW: 1994 – 

Developmental geneticist working on Drosophila. Jointly appointed with the Department of Ophthalmology. Does research on the genetic control of protein trafficking and signal transduction in the developing eye of Drosophila melanogaster.

John Petrini
Active at UW: 1994 – 2003

Studies mutations that affect chromosomal stability in humans and yeast. Has demonstrated that some well known instability mutations affect proteins that play multiple roles in DNA metabolism, such as double-strand DNA repair and DNA replication, cell division, and telomere maintenance. When Petrini left UW in 2003, he went to the Sloan-Kettering Institute.

Mani Mahadevan
Active at UW: 1995 – 2002

Clinical geneticist who works on the molecular basis of inherited disorders. Has done extensive research on myotonic dystrophy, He has cloned the gene that causes the disease and identified the trinuceotide repeat expansion that is responsible for the mutation. When he left the University of Wisconsin in 2002, he moved to the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Department of Pathology.

Tomas Prolla
Active at UW: 1997 – 

Interested in the causes and mechanisms of aging. Uses DNA microarrays to detect changes in levels of gene expression that are correlated with aging in mice, humans, and rhesus monkeys. These studies include the examination of mice that have been genetically modified to alter the levels of expression of specific genes and the examination of gene expression in animals that have been subjected to calorie restriction that delays the onset of aging.

Mary B. McCormick
Active at UW: 1998 – 1999

Neurogenetics of the mouse.

John Doebley
Active at UW: 1999 – 

Plant geneticist studying the evolution of maize and its relatives. Specifically, works on the genetics changes that have resulted in the emergence of maize from its apparent teosinte forebear, Z. mays ssp. parviglumis, a wild grass that grows in Mexico. The research is directed at detemining in detail the number and type of genetic differences between teosinte and maize in order to shed light on the genetic mechanism by which this relatively rapid agricultural transformation took place. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002

Francisco Pelegri
Active at UW: 1999 – 

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) geneticist who studies the organizational features of the egg that influence embryonic development from fertilizaton until about the mid-blastula stage, when the genes of the embryo become active. The research, therefore, focuses on maternal-effect mutations, mutations in the mother that affect development irrespective of the genotype of the developing embryo itself. The work involves detailed analysis of the molecular events that determine the fate of embryonic cells.

David C. Schwartz
Active at UW: 1999 – 

Human genome structural variation, cancer genomics, revealed by new single molecule systems. Interdisciplinary research involving the development of powerful methods to ascertain the nucleotide sequences of fragments of individual molecules of DNA and equally powerful computational methods for compiling those sequences into genomes. Aims to develop rapid and inexpensive technology for sequencing the entire genomes of individuals.


By 2004 the second phase of the Genetics/Biotechnology Center Building was finished and all faculty and staff were housed in the completed complex. This is just one of many new biological science buildings that have been built in the 2000s. Constuction continues to this day.  Henry Mall appears to be in a constant state of construction.

John Doebley, who joined the faculty in 1999, has analyzed the genetic relationships between modern corn and its ancestor, teosinte, and has identified many of the genetic changes that account for the differences between the two.

Judith Kimble has been a world leader in describing the genetic regulation of development and sex determination in the roundworm, C. elegans, and Phil Anderson has made major discoveries on how gene expression is controlled in roundworms. Sean Carroll has studied the genetic “toolbox” that produces pattern development in insects (and other complex organisms) and has analyzed the genetic changes that have occurred during the evolution of the varied species that share a common ancestral toolbox.

And that’s only a superficial description of some highlights. What is described in these pages is the “tip of the iceberg” of the rich, scientific heritage of the Laboratory of Genetics. Graduates from our graduate program are among the most distinguished scholars in the field of genetics, and, in recent years, we have seen the growth of the popularity of our undergraduate program. In the 1970’s, we had just a handful of undergradudate majors; now we have about 275. There is good reason to think that the next one hundred years will be just as exciting as the previous century we will be celebrating in May.

Nicole Perna
Active at UW – 2000 –

Genomic studies of bacterial evolution. Uses DNA sequence data to reveal differences between  closely related pathogenetic and non-pathogenic strains of bacteria. Comparative studies of bacteria reveal horizontal transfer of genetic sequences and other molecular changes involved in evolution. This survey of bacteria provides a database for accurate identification of pathogens.

Xin Sun
Active at UW: 2002 – 2017

Genetic control of organogenesis and pattern formation in the mouse. Research identifies growth factors and regulatory elements involved in differentiation and pattern formation during limb development and lung formation. Comparative studies across mammalian species to reveal variation in the basic mechanisms determining shape, structure, and size of organs and appendages.

Akihiro Ikeda
Active at UW: 2003 –

Uses genetics to study nervous system function in the mouse and to understand the formation and function of sensory synapses. Mutants affecting the eye and the cerebellum are used to identify genes that play an important role in the growth of nerve cells and the formation of synapses. Secondary identification of modifiers of these mutations provide access to pathways governed by interacting genes.

Jerry Yin
Active at UW: 2004 –

Molecular genetics of sleep, memory formation, and diseases related to their dysfunction, in Drosophila. What chemical and structural changes account for learning, remembering, and forgetting? The research requires coordinated use of genetic, biochemical, and cytological methods.

Audrey Gasch
Active at UW: 2004 –

Genetics and evolution of the stress responses in fungi. Uses microarrays to examine changes in gene expression in yeast in response to environmental stresses. Analysis of these results helps to explain how organisms manage the challenge of living in a changing and relatively unpredictable environment. Comparative genomic studies reveal changes in genes and regulatory networks correlated with evolution.

F. Michael Hoffmann
Active at UW: 2004 –

Began as a Drosophila geneticist working on a regulatory gene (decapentaplegic) that affects development of a wide variety of body structures. Now working on cancer genetics, with special emphasis on TGF cellular signaling factor and genetic influences on cancer, wound healing, immuoregulation, and other cell functions. Involved in drug discovery research, aimed at finding drugs that target the TGF-beta signaling pathway.

Ahna Skop
Active at UW: 2004 –

Studies the mechanisms of cell division in roundworms and mammals. Comparative genomic and proteomic studies identify proteins of central importance to cell division. Currently focusing on characterizing the function of several membrane-cytoskeletal proteins identified by proteomic analysis of the midbody in both C. elegans and mammalian systems.

Bret Payseur
Active at UW: 2005 –

Population genetics of mice and genetic studies of speciation. Specifically, he has discovered genes that cause reproductive isolation in hybrids, genes under rapid selection, and the evolution of recombination rate.

Margaret (Molly) Jahn
Active at UW: 2006 –

Research on the genetic improvement of agriculturally important plants. Came to the university as Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Professor of Genetics.  Currently on leave from the department while serving as Acting Deputy Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Qiang Chang
Active at UW: 2007 –

Genetic and epigenetic regulation of brain functions in mammals. Working on the genetic basis of Rett Syndrome, a condition in the autism spectrum of disorders, which is caused by mutations in the X-linked MECP2 gene (methyl CpG binding protein 2).  The research project uses mice carrying the equivalent mutation to explore the molecular and electrophysiological effects of the gene.

Scott Kennedy
Active at UW: 2008-2014

The role of small RNAs in the regulation of gene function in C. elegans. Small RNAs affect gene silencing, translational regulation, heterochromatin formation, developmental timing, antiviral defense, and genome rearrangement. This research program uses the well-understood genetics of C. elegans to reveal the mechansms by which small RNAs exert their effects.

Kate O’Connor-Giles
Active at UW: 2009 –

Developmental genetics and neuroscience. Research in our lab is focused on the identification and characterization of molecules that regulate synapse formation, function and plasticity. We are also developing tools for efficient genome engineering of Drosophila.

Philip Giampietro
Active at UW: 2009 –

Clinical genetics. Medical adviser to the Genetic Counseling Training Program. Research on genetics of development with emphasis on the the spine and on vertebral malformations.


In 2014 Michael Culbertson retired as department Chair and was succeeded by long time faculty member John Doebley.

John Pool
Active at UW: 2011 – 

Population geneticist focusing on the analysis of genome-scale data on genetic variation. Examines the genetics of adaptive evolution using populations of Drosophila melanogaster derived from contrasting natural environments. Develops new statistical approaches to learn about natural selection and population history from genomic variation.

Lawrence Loewe
Active at UW: 2011 – 

Chris Hittinger
Active at UW: 2011 – 

Evolutionary genomics of yeast carbon metabolism. Studies yeast biodiversity and function using genome sequencing and engineering methods to infer and test historical genetic changes. Carbon metabolism is the energy superhighway of life, and yeasts have rapidly evolved highly variable genetic routes to navigate it.

Xuehua Zhong
Active at UW: 2013 – 

Although genome is a blueprint for making an organism, epigenome governs the functional expression of genes and ultimately shapes the organism. Our overall research goal is to understand the fundamental mechanisms and biological roles of epigenetic modifications underpinning various biological processes.

Hoard Statue
W. D. Hoard was memorialized (1922) in a monument located at the top of Henry Mall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.   The artist was Gutzon Borglum who also created the presidents’ heads at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.