Dr. Joshua Widhalm Named Deputy Director of Purdue Center for Plant Biology – HLA Happenings

Dr. Joshua Widhalm Named Deputy Director of Purdue Center for Plant Biology

Headshot of Josh Widhalm.
Dr. Joshua Widhalm has been appointed Deputy Director of the Purdue Center for Plant Biology. Below is the email sent by Ronald Turco, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, regarding the appointment.

Purdue University’s Center for Plant Biology (CPB) is pleased to announce that Dr. Josh Widhalm, associate professor of horticulture and landscape architecture (HLA), has been appointed as the center’s deputy director, effective January 1, 2024. Widhalm’s roles will include overseeing the trainee development program, enhancing CPB community-building activities and initiatives, and increasing the visibility of the center and its members. The CPB is an interdepartmental alliance of faculty and trainees interested in basic plant biology research and is committed to enhancing graduate and postdoc training in plant sciences.

Widhalm joined the faculty at Purdue in 2016 and has an established research program in plant natural product metabolism, synthetic biology, and functional genomics. His research aims to provide a clearer understanding of the biosynthesis, regulation, and functions of specialized metabolites that impact the biology of plants and their interactions with other organisms. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Science, Nature Plants, and Plant Physiology. Since 2020, he has served as an Associate Editor at Horticulture Research, the top-ranked journal in horticulture and among the most highly cited journals in plant biology focused on basic aspects of plant biology, physiology, genetics, evolution, and biotechnology. He has also received several honors, including being named a 2023 University Faculty Scholar, a Showalter Research Trust award, the Unsung Diversity Hero award, and was nationally recognized as a Scialog Fellow for Chemical Machinery of the Cell sponsored by Research Corporation for Science Advancement and The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Beyond being actively involved in teaching and mentoring undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers, Widhalm is in his third year as the chair of the HLA graduate program and serves on the college’s and university’s graduate councils. He is also the college’s representative on the Disability Resource Center faculty advisory committee. In 2022-2023, Widhalm participated in leadership training through the Purdue Insights Forum and is currently a fellow with the 19th class of LEAD 21, a national program geared at leadership development for current and aspiring leaders in the land grant system. As the deputy director of CPB, Widhalm will work closely with the director, Dr. Natalia Dudareva, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and HLA, to advance the mission and vision of the center. He will also coordinate with the CPB faculty and staff to foster a collaborative and supportive environment for plant biology research and education at Purdue.

“I am honored and excited to take on this new role and to continue working with the outstanding CPB community,” Widhalm said. “I look forward to enhancing the quality and diversity of our trainee development programs, as well as promoting the visibility and impact of basic plant biology at Purdue and beyond. I am both honored and humbled that my CPB colleagues trust and support me stepping into this leadership position.”

Dudareva expressed her confidence in Widhalm’s leadership and expertise. “Josh is an excellent researcher, teacher, and mentor, and he has been instrumental in strengthening the CPB graduate education program. I am delighted to have him as the deputy director and I am confident that he will bring new ideas and energy to the center.”

The CPB was established in 2016 as part of the Purdue Moves initiative to invest in plant sciences research and education. The center has over 30 faculty members from eight departments in the Colleges of Agriculture and Science and the School of Chemical Engineering. The center’s research focuses on advancing fundamental understanding of plant biology spanning scales from molecules all the way up to ecosystems. The center also offers a variety of seminars, workshops, symposia, and outreach activities to enhance the academic and professional development of plant biology students and researchers.

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