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John M. Burke

Distinguished Research Professor & Head
Department of Plant Biology
Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 4604
Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 4615/17

Dr. Burke grew up in Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate, earning a B.S. in Genetics & Cell Biology (1993). He later received a Ph.D. in Genetics (1999) from the University of Georgia before conducting postdoctoral research at Indiana University. In 2002, he joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University, and in 2006 he returned to UGA as a faculty member in Plant Biology. In 2019, he was named a Distinguished Research Professor, and in 2020 he took over as Head of Plant Biology. His lab studies the origin and evolution of crop plants, with a current focus on adaptation to stressful environments. They also maintain an interest in floral developmental evolution as well as crop-wild gene flow and transgene escape.

Research Interests:

Our research interests lie at the intersection of evolutionary genetics and comparative genomics. In our work, we use a variety of tools and approaches to study the molecular basis of evolutionary change in flowering plants, with a primary focus on the sunflower family (i.e., the Compositae or Asteraceae). Research topics include: the origin and evolution of cultivated sunflower, the genomic basis of stress tolerance in sunflower and its wild relatives, and floral developmental evolution. We also maintain an interest in the ecological and evolutionary impact of transgene escape from genetically modified crops into their wild relatives.


1994-1999     Ph.D. in Genetics, University of Georgia
1989-1993     B.S. in Genetics and Cell Biology, Minor in Statistics, University of Minnesota

Of note:


Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2020)
University of Georgia Distinguished Research Professor (2019)
University of Georgia Lothar Tresp Outstanding Honors Professor (2017)
University of Georgia Sandy Beaver Excellence in Teaching Award (2016)
National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences (2013)
University of Georgia Creative Research Medal (2013)

Articles Featuring John M. Burke

Five PhD students were hooded by Plant Biology faculty during the Spring PhD Graduate Ceremony in Stegeman Coliseum on May 9, 2024. These included Philip Bentz (Jim Leebens-Mack), Max Bernhardt (John Burke), Austin Menzmer (Chris Peterson), Margot Popecki (…

We are thrilled to announce two well-deserved awards presented to Max Barnhart and Yen-Ho Chen from the Department of Plant Biology. 

Congratulations to Douda! Douda, Associate Professor in Plant Biology, was recognized with the UGA research medal for her distinct and exceptional research.

Congratulations to John Burke for being named a Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)! This award recognizes leading scientists for their research and leadership in their field. John was recognized for his "outstanding…

After six years of exemplary leadership, Lisa Donovan handed over the reigns of the Plant Biology Department to John Burke on August 1st, 2020. During her tenure Lisa led the Department to new heights and was also instrumental in envisioning and…

John Burke and Lisa Donovan along with colleagues from British Columbia uncovered a set of "supergenes" that help sunflowers adapt to different environments and are contributing to the amazing diversity in sunflower species today. Because the wild species…

Dr. John Burke was recently awarded the title of "Distinguished Research Professor." This title is awarded to faculty who are internationally recognized for their original contributions to knowledge and whose work promises to foster continued creativity in…

Lab Personnel

Postdoctoral Research Associate

My Graduate Students

Max Barnhart

Graduate Student

Emily Yaklich

Graduate Student

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