Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology, has been named the Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Distinguished Chair in Plant Biology and Evolutionary Genomics by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.
Having joined the University in 1998, dePamphilis has been a pioneering scientist and a leading figure in the research community. His work centers on the evolutionary origins and genomic analysis of major plant features, along with other long-term focuses on parasitism, polyploidy, and horizontal gene transfer. He is a founding member and the principal investigator of the Floral Genome Project, which received a $7.4 million multi-university grant from the National Science Foundation to bridge the genomic gap between key plant model systems. He has been credited as an author on 167 scientific papers that have collectively garnered more than 30,000 citations, and in 2013, he was awarded a prestigious Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal.
“Claude is a treasure trove of knowledge and creativity,” said Jim Marden, professor of biology and director of operations at the Huck Institutes. “He has always been at the forefront of genomic and bioinformatic methods, which he combines with his knowledge of natural history and plant biology to ask creative questions and discover important new knowledge. His work has revealed how parasitic plants function and interact with their hosts, and how plant genomes and key features like chloroplasts and flowers have evolved.”
In addition to his outstanding research record, dePamphilis is a leader in the life sciences community at Penn State. He is director of both the Penn State Herbarium and the Center for Parasitic and Carnivorous Plants, which launched in 2019 under his leadership. He is a member of the faculty of three Huck intercollege graduate degree programs (Bioinformatics and Genomics, Plant Biology, and Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Biosciences) and of the Plant Institute. Under his mentorship, 19 scientists have received their master's or doctoral degrees, and he has served on numerous recruitment, award, promotion, tenure and graduate committees.
“Claude’s work has revealed deep insights into plant evolution, but as impressive to me is that his approach is incredibly interdisciplinary, following the scientific problems and pulling whatever disciplines or techniques are needed,” said Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes. “He has been a key player in building community, not least at Penn State most recently taking the lead in setting up the Center for Parasitic and Carnivorous Plants.”
“Claude is an important connector and driver of innovative research at Penn State,” agreed Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “He leads really cutting-edge research in plant biology and evolutionary genomics, and he brings people together to think about these fields in new and exciting ways, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge. As director of the Herbarium, Claude manages a valuable resource that supports research, education, and outreach across the university and beyond. He was instrumental in the creation of the parasitic plant quarantine facility which has catalyzed some really exciting new research directions.”
DePamphilis received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College in 1977, and a master’s and a doctorate — both in botany — from the University of Georgia in 1982 and 1986. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan and Indiana University, he was an assistant professor of biology at Vanderbilt before joining Penn State.