Meet a Tiger: Amy Lawton-Rauh
She does it with a smile. The new Faculty Senate president, educator and researcher balances the demands of each of her roles. Meet Amy Lawton-Rauh.
Title: Associate professor of genetics and biochemistry and the 2017-18 Faculty Senate President
Years at Clemson: 11.5 years
What I do: I research and teach population and quantitative genomics. I am the principle investigator of a research group I started at Clemson that studies the genomics of crops, crop wild relatives, and weedy species. My research group includes a postdoctoral research associate, graduate student, and undergraduate research interns. Examples of systems that we study are domesticated and wild rices, the genome dynamics of rosaceous crops to understand the impact of domestication and breeding on complex traits like disease resistance in peaches, apples, cherries and their wild relatives, and adaptation in amaranths (including rapid, intense adaptation to herbicides such as glyphosate). Across these systems, we are trying to figure out the relationship between the environment and genome dynamics in shaping how plants react to the environment during selection. My group works with collaborators across the state, the U.S. and the globe to improve basic models of population and quantitative genomics and apply them to address important agroecological questions wrapped in grand challenges that we face now and in the future…namely, can we identify genome elements in wild relatives and weedy species that teach us how to combine desirable traits like drought and temperature resilience or other local adaptation from these species?
I use my research activities and methods, and innovations in my broader field of population and quantitative genomics in other systems including humans, Drosophila (fruit flies), Zika virus, etc. to teach an advanced course, ‘Population and Quantitative Genetics,’ for undergraduate and graduate students in genetics, biochemistry, biological Sciences, healthcare genetics, plant and environmental Sciences and sometimes bioengineering.
For 2017-18, I am serving as the president of Faculty Senate. I chair (run) the monthly Faculty Senate meetings and, like those before and ahead of me, do a lot behind the scenes to represent and cultivate the spirit and integrity of shared governance.
What I love about Clemson: My favorite thing is the sincere commitment of colleagues to excellence in research, scholarship, training, teaching, and service. We are fortunate to have sustained engagement of people that are global leaders in their discipline that respect and value the relationship between driving research and scholarship innovations and folding these innovations into our teaching, training and approaches to service. We have excellent students in our programs and they are highly motivated to learn through participation in our ongoing research groups and scholarly activities. My colleagues at other universities, including from other countries, are always impressed with our students and how we not just balance, but actually successfully combine research and teaching to benefit both.
Accomplishment I’m most proud of: Undergraduate and graduate students that have gone on to do amazing things. I think of one particular student that was a bit shy and started off in the back of my Population and Quantitative Genetics lecture class. After the first lecture, he moved to the very front and came up to me after many lectures asking questions. His questions became increasingly informed and it turned out that he was reading beyond the textbook, just absorbing as much as he could about what we were learning. This student joined my lab, helped me start a newer research direction in my lab where I eventually got external funding, and ended up as a co-author of a publication. After graduating, we got his Ph.D. in a prestigious program and is currently working in industry as a research scientist.
Where I see myself in five years: In five years (maybe 10 years?), I see myself directing or co-directing a larger research group effort focused on stress resilience at the population level to address existing and emerging challenges. Ideally, such a group would become poised to used shared and independent problem-solving strategies and technologies.
I also see myself working with colleagues to expand the USDA National Needs Fellowship program. This program is for Ph.D. students and facilitates the recruitment, retention and successful placement of scientists into research-informed leadership positions that use computational genomics. In five years, it would be wonderful if this program and its expansion can continue to be comprised of students from underrepresented groups that are inspired to stay connected to the Southeastern USA to improve agriculture and use methods linking agriculture and health.
Last thing I watched on TV: Technically, probably the Weather Channel to find out more about the flooding in the Midwest. I am originally from St. Louis and still have family there. What were once infrequent floods are becoming increasingly common, unfortunately, and the recent floods have hit the area pretty hard.
Other than that: Nature’s Weirdest Events, Wild Kratts, Octonauts, and Sofia the First pop up (I have a son, 9, and daughter, 3).
Guilty pleasure: Walking or running in the rain
One thing most people don’t know about me: When I was in high school, I spent a month on a small hog farm in Bavaria, Germany as a participant in a cultural exchange sponsored by a Foreign Language Club scholarship.