Faculty Highlights - Dr. Mark Gleason
Professor, Extension Plant Pathologist
Describe your journey to Iowa State University? I grew up on Long Island, New York. My undergraduate degree was in biology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. After college, I hiked the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine in the eastern U.S. I then earned M.S. and PhD degrees in Environmental Sciences from University of Virginia. After a couple of years as a visiting faculty member at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, I earned a second PhD, in plant pathology, from University of Kentucky. I have been on the faculty at ISU since 1986.
Why did you choose a career in plant pathology? It enables me to combine my interests in ecology, environmental biology, and plants.
What excites you about your job? I have a great job! Every day is different. Since I work with many crops (fruit, vegetables, ornamentals, shade trees, and turfgrass), and am heavily involved in research, teaching, and extension, I get to interact with students, colleagues, and all sorts of other Iowans. I especially enjoy working with graduate students and undergraduate interns.
What is your area of research and what impact does your research have? My goal is to develop effective, ecologically based disease management strategies for a wide range of horticultural crops and commodities, especially fruits (apples and strawberries), vegetables (cucurbit crops), and ornamentals (hosta and shade trees). The range of research in my lab is broad, encompassing molecular genetics of fungi, ecology of fungal and bacterial diseases of fruit and vegetable crops, insect-vectored diseases (particularly bacterial wilt of cucurbits), application of weather data to disease-warning systems, and pathogen biogeography.
Why did you come to Iowa State University? I was offered a job here, and I thought the campus was beautiful.
What keeps you at Iowa State University? My job, of course. Also, Ames is a serene and stimulating town to live in. Finally, Iowa has its own brand of pastoral beauty that I’ve come to appreciate.
What advice would you give to prospective students considering a graduate degree? Making your search process as systematic and deliberate as possible is likely to help you to match up with a suitable adviser and program. Target several attractive-looking programs in your discipline, then make contact with potential advisers who have strong track records in both research and graduate student mentoring. Make a clear, compelling case why they should have you in their programs; this includes not only email and face-to-face contacts, but also the “letter of interest” that goes with your application. Talk to potential mentors’ technicians and students via email, in order to get a fuller perspective on quality of life in that lab. Apply early, and make sure all your references submit their letters promptly. Then select your preferred adviser.
What do you do when you are not working? Reading, gardening, and traveling.
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