UGA plant biologist James L. Hamrick named Regents’ Professor

UGA plant biologist James L. Hamrick named Regents’ Professor

Athens, Ga. – James L. Hamrick, a distinguished research professor of plant biology at the University of Georgia who studies the genetics and evolution of plant populations, has been named a Regents’ Professor.

The appointment was approved at the February meeting of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Regents’ Professors are recognized as faculty members whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized both nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting.

“I am very pleased to have been named as a Regents’ Professor by the University of Georgia,” said Hamrick. “Much of the success I’ve enjoyed at UGA is due directly to the many talented students, post-doctorals and research associates that have worked with me and to the facilities and support provided by the plant biology and genetics departments.”

Hamrick joined UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences in what was then the department of botany (now plant biology) as a professor in 1986. He served as a research professor from 1990 to1995 and head of the department from 1992 to1995. He has been since 2000 a distinguished research professor.

“Jim Hamrick has been a major presence here as a department head and then a distinguished research professor for many years,” said Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “He follows in the footsteps of other outstanding Franklin faculty in being honored with a Regents’ Professorship. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Awardees of a Regents’ Professorship receive a permanent increase in salary of $10,000 added to the merit raise in the year of initial appointment. In addition, the awardee receives a yearly academic support account of $5,000 as long as she or he holds the professorship.

“We are delighted that Jim Hamrick has received this well-deserved honor,” said Michelle Momany, head of the department of plant biology. “He is an incredibly productive scientist and respected teacher, but he also generously shares his time and experience to help the department and the university. His service to plant biology over the years has helped shape this department and make it a better place.”

Hamrick’s lab especially focuses on the genetic structure of plant populations and on those evolutionary factors that influence the development and maintenance of genetic structure. He uses genetic markers to estimate patterns and rates of pollen and seed dispersal, to describe patterns of matings within populations and to determine the timing and direction of natural selection. His most current research focuses on tropical tree breeding patterns and tropical forest fragmentation.

A native of Richmond, Va., Hamrick received his bachelor’s degree in forestry from North Carolina State University in 1964 and a master’s degree in forest genetics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1966. He received his doctoral degree in genetics, also from Berkeley, in 1970.

He began his academic career at the University of Kansas, which he joined as an assistant professor in 1971. He rose through the ranks, achieving his professorship in 1980, and he served as head of the department of botany there in 1984-85 before coming to UGA the following year.

He has served as associate editor for numerous journals, including Evolution, Heredity, Conservation Genetics and Molecular Ecology. In 1996, he was president of the American Genetics Association, and from 2000 to 2006 he was a member of the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of the Biological Sciences. He has served as UGA’s representative to the Organization for Tropical Studies since 1987.

During his career at UGA he has taught numerous courses, including plant variation and evolution, natural history of Georgia plants and advanced population genetics. He is the recipient of many research grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

He is the author or co-author of more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals and was co-editor with former UGA faculty member John Avise of the book Conservation Genetics: Case Histories from Nature (1996).

In addition, he has been invited to address symposia all over the world.