Focus on Faculty

Bob Schmitz

Photo of Bob Schmitz.
Bob Schmitz displays some of the plants in his epigenetics laboratory. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Bob Schmitz, associate professor of genetics and Georgia Research Alliance Lars G. Ljungdahl Distinguished Investigator, conducts basic research with far-reaching implications for agricultural productivity.

Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?

I earned my bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Arizona and my doctorate in genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am currently the Georgia Research Alliance Lars G. Ljungdahl Distinguished Investigator and an associate professor in the department of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. I teach advanced courses in genetics and genomics. I am also the faculty director of the Georgia Genomics and Bioinformatics Core.

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?

I joined the faculty in the fall of 2013. I was drawn here in large part by the talented group of faculty studying plant genomic and evolutionary biology who would become my colleagues.

What are your favorite courses and why?

My favorite course is “Genetics Problem Solving Laboratory.” This is a highly interactive upper-division genetics course designed to challenge students with complex problems in genetics. The goal of this course is to teach logical thinking and to learn how to question information in real time.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

Witnessing the success of members of my research laboratory has been the most rewarding aspect of my career thus far. The students and postdoctoral scholars in my laboratory publish impactful, high-quality studies, and they are recognized for their contributions.

Bob Schmitz in his lab.

Bob Schmitz talks with postdoctoral fellow Jered Wendte in his lab. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

How do you describe the scope and impact of your research or scholarship to people outside of your field?

We study the basic properties of how genes are regulated. Understanding this process enables us to develop technologies that alter gene expression. We often team up with colleagues in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to implement these technologies to improve crop performance.

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?

I am very passionate about research. It’s exciting and challenging to study a problem that no one knows the solution to at the time. The courses I teach are designed in ways to maximize creative thought and discovery. The students in the class ask thought-provoking questions that help me reflect upon my own research and its relevance to society.

What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?

Critical thinking. I hope my students learn to evaluate and critically assess data. The ability to process information in real time and accurately assess its content is a key life skill that will prepare my students for any career, as well as daily life.

Describe your ideal student.

If I’ve learned anything during my time at UGA, it’s that no two students are alike, which is a good thing. I have many excellent students with diverse skill sets and characteristics. I enjoy the challenge of creating projects that leverage their best qualities.

Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is …

I arrive very early to the office, as this is a time when I am most effective. One of my favorite activities is taking a mid-morning walk around campus to clear my mind in preparation for the remainder of the day.

Beyond the UGA campus, I like to …

At home, I enjoy gardening. Living close to downtown also makes it easy to enjoy all that Athens has to offer, including the great restaurants and music.

Favorite book/movie (and why)?

I love any book or movie with a twist or even two at the end!  They never get old to me, as I never see them coming.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …

Getting a phone call from the department head of genetics offering me a position as a faculty member at this great institution.