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Theresa Fulton

Principal Investigator

Contact Information:

Cornell University

175 Biotechnology Building

Ithaca, NY 14853



I am in charge of education and outreach for the lab, specifically for Panzea.



I was in research for 14 years working on QTL mapping of wild relatives of tomato and comparative genomics of tomato and arabidopsis, before realizing I especially enjoyed training scientists visiting the lab. So I went back to graduate school for my PhD in Education and curriculum development and now enjoy combining my research and education backgrounds to enable researchers around the world to take advantage of genomics and bioinformatics information in working on crop improvement, including marker assisted plant breeding, biodiversity conservation, and food security issues.


Current projects: I helped develop our traveling musuem exhibit on Maize Evolution as well as the online Teacher Friendly Guide to Maize Evolution. I coordinate our GBS workshops and associated videos. I also teach molecular plant breeding and develop online learning materials with the Integrated Breeding Platform. 


Why I became a scientist and then what happened

I grew up in a number of small towns in south-central New York, near the Pennsylvania border. When I went to Syracuse University as an undergraduate, I originally enrolled in the pre-med program. However, one of my first classes was microbiology. I enjoyed the class, but realized that as a doctor I would be dealing with sick people all the time! So I switched my major to Microbiology and Genetics. During my last year in college, I was a Research Assistant in a laboratory at the VA Hospital (which paid so little I had to subsidize it by also waitressing) where I studied nicotinamide uptake pathways in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, towards more effective treatments of tuberculosis. Already burdened with student loans, I decided to look for a job rather than going on to graduate school. One day I received a phone call from a professor in Plant Breeding at Cornell University who had a laboratory technician position open. I had not actually applied for this particular job because I had no interest in plants and had only taken one plant-related course ever, but he had seen my resume on someone’s desk and convinced me that the job sounded interesting – completely changing the course of my career.

In fact, I found the job, which involved the genetics of rice and tomato, so interesting that one year later I decided to go to graduate school after all. Fortunately, Cornell University has a wonderful Employee Degree Program which allowed me to work full-time to support my family while also completing a Masters in Plant Breeding & Genetics. By this time I had been promoted to Research Coordinator in the lab, where I had the opportunity to work with and train visitors from all over the world. I realized that while I enjoyed research, I liked teaching it even more, so I decided to go back to school for a Ph.D. in Education. My current job allows me to keep one foot in the research world while fulfilling my love of teaching, and better still I often get to travel to countries in Africa to teach – gratifying and exciting!


Meanwhile, I also co-started a company working on computational genomics so somehow am now a scientist/teacher/businessperson!

Ph.D., 2002 Education, Minor: Science and Technology Studies; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
M.S., 1996 Plant Breeding, Minor: Genetics; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
B.S., 1987 Biology, Minors: Microbiology and Genetics; Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

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