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Jeff Ross-Ibarra

Principal Investigator

Contact Information:

Dept. of Plant Sciences
262 Robbins Hall, Mail Stop 4
University of California
One Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616




Jeff is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Plant Sciences.


How I became a scientist:

I came through an excellent public school system in Irvine, CA. and was always supported by my parents, who are both academics.  My mother was a microbiologist, and instilled a great love of biology in my from when I was young.  Even so, I started college at the University of California Riverside not knowing if I should major in English, Anthropology, or Biology.  Thanks to a mistake by my undergraduate advisor, I was enrolled in Berry Lord’s upper division plant morphology class my first year.  Though I was totally unprepared and it was the hardest class I’d ever taken, I was blown away by plant diversity.  Dr. Lord also put me in contact with Arturo Gomez-Pompa, an ethnobotanist working in Mexico.  I started working with Dr. Gomez-Pompa, and stayed after my BS in Botany to continue working with him.  Along the way I realized I needed to learn evolutionary biology as well, so asked to be co-advised by evolutionary geneticist Norm Ellstrand as well. After my MS, I moved to the University of Georgia to pursue a PhD in the plant evolution lab of Jim Hamrick.  All of my initial experiments during my PhD (both fieldwork and labwork) failed, but I soon realized that, as a field, evolutionary genetics was producing an ever-increasing amount of data faster than people could analyze it.  I thus taught myself some programming, and became a computational biologist.  I continued that work during my post-doctoral studies at the University of California Irvine working with Brandon Gaut.  One year of my work in Dr. Gaut’s lab was even funded by a previous iteration of this maize diversity grant.  Dr. Gaut was moving away from maize research as I left his lab, but thanks to his introductions, I began working with his collaborators — now my Co-PIs — as I began my faculty job at UC Davis in 2009.  After several great years collaborating with the group informally, I joined the maize diversity grant as a Co-PI in 2013.

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