The Charles B. Heiser Graduate Fellowship in Plant Evolution was established in 2002. It honors Distinguished Emeritus Professor Charles Heiser, who died on June 11, 2010. The fellowship was first awarded in 2009.
About Charles B. Heiser
Charles B. Heiser joined the IU faculty in 1947 and spent his entire career here. Heiser was a leading authority on sunflowers and a renowned ethnobotanist. His interests included natural hybridization and its evolutionary significance, as well as the origin of domesticated plants and agriculture. He was also an expert on naranjillas, gourds, chili peppers, and totora.
Heiser was a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1953. He served as president of the American Society for Plant Taxonomy, the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society for Economic Botany, and the Botanical Society of America.
2019 Heiser Fellow: Lekeah Durden
Lekeah Durden is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior (EEB) program. Her doctoral research encompasses ecological and evolutionary relevance of plant-fungal symbiosis. By studying the coevolution of this partnership, she hopes to improve understanding of symbiotic interactions, especially defensive mutualisms. Using the morning glory and maternally-inherited fungal symbiont, she is developing a non-traditional model system to study coevolution. The Heiser fellowship will fund her summer greenhouse experiment testing agricultural crops against a common pest, the Southern root-knot nematode. This research will expand understanding of the plant-fungal partnership and the protective role it has against belowground pests and the surrounding plant community. These findings have potential application in agriculture as a natural biocontrol strategy (i.e., intercropping) or could be used as a synthetic target ingredient (i.e., ergot alkaloids) for insect pesticides or deterring insect pests.