Research Staff

Dr. Leon Kochian

Dr. Leon Kochian joined the University of Saskatchewan in August 2016 as the Associate Director of the Global Institute for Food Security and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Global Food Security. He also is a Professor in the Departments of Plant Science and Soil Science. Prior to coming to the University of Saskatchewan, he was the Director of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health on the Cornell University campus. In addition, Dr. Kochian was Professor of Plant Biology and also Soil and Crop Sciences at Cornell University, as well as an Adjunct Scientist at Boyce Thompson Institute. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Botany at the University of California at Berkeley in 1978 and his PhD in Plant Physiology at the University of California at Davis in 1984. In 1985, Dr. Kochian took a position as a Plant Physiologist with USDA-ARS at the US Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory, Cornell University. He became Director of the US Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory in 1997 and Director of the newly established USDA-ARS Robert Holley Center on the Cornell campus in 2007. Dr. Kochian’s research deals with the molecular biology, physiology, and genetics of mineral ion transport and root biology processes as they relate to mineral nutrient acquisition, plant response to abiotic environmental stresses, and the role of root architecture in nutrient acquisition efficiency. Dr. Kochian has published 251 papers that have been cited 25,784 times and has an H index of 90. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), as well as an American Society of Plant Biologists Fellow, and is a member of the ARS Hall of Fame. Dr. Kochian was also named to Thomson Reuter’s list of 2015’s “Most Influential Scientific Minds”, a citation analysis identifying the scientists who have made the most significant global impact within their respective field of study over the past 11 years.

Dr. Tim Sharbel

Dr. Timothy Sharbel, internationally acclaimed expert in apomixis in plants is helping to build GIFS’ reputation in the area of apomixis. He comes to GIFS most recently from Gatersleben, Germany, where he was a group leader and PI at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK).

Dr. Sharbel’s research on a transition (sexual or asexual seed development) species called Boechera has resulted in the isolation of two genes, APPOLO and UPGRADE, which appear to have a pivotal function in the transition to apomixis. This is now being tested in canola.

GIFS is providing $5 million over five years plus $2 million one time for capital and renovations to support Dr. Sharbel’s work. Matching funds of $5 million is also being sought which will place Dr. Sharbel in a world-leading position with respect to funding for apomixis research. 

Dr. Sharbel’s research team will include several key members of his team from Germany who will re-locate to Saskatoon. He also plans to recruit more staff and graduate students locally. By the end of 2016, Dr. Sharbel could be leading a lab of approximately 20 people.

Dr. Marco Pellino

Marco’s background is in food technology and evolutionary biology studies, and he earned a PhD at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) on the study of plant asexual reproduction (apomixis). He is the Manager of the Sharbel Laboratory at GIFS and conducts research and provides bioinformatics support for several projects on the topic of asexual reproduction. Marco was born in Napoli, Italy, and is known for his colourful and happy Mediterranean spirit.