Alan Collmer, the Andrew J. and Grace B. Nichols Professor of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, is a scholar and leader, described by his peers as no less than legendary but humble, conscientious and thoughtful as well.
Over the course of his career, he has used the tools of molecular genetics and genomics to answer the question of how bacteria infect plants and cause disease. In the process, he has uncovered a complex system that bacteria use to deliver virulence factors into plants, not only causing disease but also stifling the plant’s defenses. His analysis of this molecular battleground and the weapons of attack and self-defense are a foundation for new methods for protecting plants from disease. One of his major activities in recent years has been leading the National Science Foundation-sponsored, multi-institutional project that determined the genome sequence of the worldwide pest Pseudomonas syringae, providing scientists all the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of bacterial attack.
Collmer joined the faculty in 1988 as an associate professor and was promoted to professor in 1994. He served as the inaugural director of the School of Integrative Plant Science from 2014 to 2016, leading the charge to transform plant sciences at Cornell into a single dynamic school. A fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and the American Academy of Microbiology, Collmer was awarded the 2008 CALS Outstanding Accomplishments in Basic Research Award and the 2014 CALS Career Accomplishment Award.
He and his wife Candace, Hum. Ec. ’72, Ph.D. CALS ’82, have two children, April Collmer and Alex Collmer, Eng. ’97.