Jeffrey L. Bennetzen

Jeffrey L. Bennetzen

Fellow: Awarded 2008

Field of Study: Molecular and Cellular Biology

Competition: US & Canada


Jeffrey Bennetzen is the Norman and Doris Giles Professor of Molecular Biology and Functional Genomics at the University of Georgia. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1980, he was a research scientist at the International Plant Research Institute (1981-83) before accepting an appointment as Assistant Professor at Purdue University in 1983.  Just eight years later he was promoted to professor, and in 1999 he became the inaugural H. Edwin Umbarger Distinguished Professor of Genetics, the youngest person to ever hold an endowed chair at that university.While at Purdue, he was accorded many honors, including the McKnight Foundation Award in Plant Biology, the National Science Foundation's Presidential Young Investigator Award, the first of his two Fulbright awards (which he used to support his time as visiting scholar at the Sainsbury Lab at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England), a Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award, and the Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru Centenary Professorship at the University of Hyderabad.

His lab at Purdue made many contributions to plant science, including the sequencing of the first retrotransposon from any plant (Bs1 of maize) in 1989 and generating the first genetic map of sorghum (1990).  While under his direction, the lab also initiated the field of comparative mapping and genetics in the grasses (1990) and founded the International Grass Genome Initiative (1994); further, in 2003 they developed the Hypomethylated Partial Restriction (HPMR) technology to allow efficient completion of shotgun sequencing projects to study complex plant genomes.

After twenty years at Purdue, Jeffrey Bennetzen accepted an appointment in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia, where he continued his string of important discoveries and scientific advances, among them the development of GeneTrek, a new technique for efficient genome characterization.  In recognition of all of his many contributions to the field, he was elected an Eminent Scholar by the Georgia Research Alliance (2003), a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2004), and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005). In 2008 he received not only a Guggenheim Fellowship, but his second Fulbright Fellowship.

During his Guggenheim term, he will be continuing his researches into the genetic diversity and population structure in Striga, a parasitic weed that has devastated the crops of Mali and the rest of West and Central Africa,  in an effort to find an effective weapon against it.

To find out more about Jeffrey Bennetzen, his lab at the University of Georgia, and its researches follow this link:


National Academy of Sciences , 2004