AMES, Iowa — The recipient of the 2023 Rossmann Manatt Faculty Development Award is Marna Yandeau-Nelson, associate professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology at Iowa State University.
The award recognizes tenured faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences or the College of Human Sciences who have demonstrated an exceptional level of creativity and productivity in scholarship, teaching and service, and who show great promise continuing those achievements.
Yandeau-Nelson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Drake University in 1998 and a doctorate in genetics from Iowa State in 2005. She then worked at Penn State University as a postdoctoral scholar, studying the genetics of starch biosynthesis in maize before returning to Iowa State as an associate scientist in the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology in 2009. She became an assistant professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology in 2014.
Yandeau-Nelson’s research combines genetic, biochemical, metabolomic and computational approaches to study the biosynthesis and function of the plant cuticle — a protective hydrophobic barrier produced by the plant epidermis. Her research primarily focuses on the silks of corn, which are key structures for pollination and fertilization. Yandeau-Nelson aims to reveal mechanisms for plant cuticle production and how it is related to crop yield and environmental stress responses.
Since becoming a professor at Iowa State, Yandeau-Nelson has contributed to 16 published scientific research papers and secured three grants from the National Science Foundation to fund her research program. She teaches courses in genetics, biology and plant metabolism, has spoken at national and international conferences, and is the associate chair for the Interdepartmental Plant Biology Graduate Program. Yandeau-Nelson is also the incoming chair of the board of directors of the Maize Genetics Cooperation, an international body of scientists conducting maize genetics research.
The Rossmann Manatt Award includes a monetary gift between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the endowment’s standing. Yandeau-Nelson will use this gift to fund CRISPR-based genomic editing research at the ISU Crop Bioengineering Laboratory to examine orphan genes — those that are only present in one species — in maize that are correlated with plant cuticle biosynthesis.