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The genus Rhododendron (Ericaceae) comprises 1000 distinct species, most of them native to North temperate regions of East Asia. However, a few species occur naturally in West Eurasia and in North America. In addition one phylum, Section Vireya, underwent a major radiation (>300 species) in Borneo, New Guinea and other Malesian regions. Modern techniques of DNA analysis, particularly NextGen sequencing, enable us both to infer the phylogeny of Genus Rhododendron and discover how speciation and Northern hemisphere dispersal occurred. The large number of morphologically diverse species, their varied habitat preferences and the ease of clonal propagation make Rhododendron a perfect model organism for studying evolutionary mechanisms in a woody plant. Over the past decade, the Hall lab has made phylogenetic analyses of Rhododendrons at every level from within a species to between sections, using DNA sequences from several nuclear genes. Since 2009, we have been involved in a research collaboration with Prof. Jay Shendure, UW Genome Sciences, to sequence and map the nuclear genome of R. williamsianum using short read sequencing and several advanced scaffolding techniques. Progress on this has been excellent, with 50% of the 650Mb genome so far assembled into contigs with a scaffolded N50 of 38kb. A major benefit to our evolutionary studies has been the discovery of a class of small terminal-repeat retrotransposons that provide robust phylogenetic markers. Also, we now envision a Rhododendron phylogeny based upon whole genome sequence data.
PhD Harvard 1958 in Physical Chemistry; Asst. Prof. of Chemistry, Univ. of Illinois 1959-63. Assoc. Prof. of Genetics, UW 1963-66. Professor 1966-2001, Dept. Chair 1980-84. Prof. Genome Sciences 2001-2007, Prof. Biology 2003-2007, Emeritus 2008-
During the 38 years in Genetics, research was focused upon transcription mechanisms in S. cerevisiae. This work culminated in the patented invention "Expression of Polypeptides in Yeast" (USPO 5,618,676). The UW, through Washington Research Foundation, has licensed this for the production of vaccines against Hepatitis B Virus and Human Pappiloma Virus, as well as Human Insulin and other recombinant proteins. Licensing revenue to the University of Washington has supported diverse activities, ranging from faculty salaries and research grants to graduate student stipends. Awards to Prof. Hall include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1963, the first inventor of the year award (Seattle Biomedicine) in 2004, election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2010, and the University of Kansas Distinguished Service Award in 2010.