COSAM News Articles 2019 February COSAM Faculty Focus – Dr. Courtney Leisner

COSAM Faculty Focus – Dr. Courtney Leisner

Published: 02/12/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

Eight days after virtually interviewing with the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), Dr. Courtney Leisner gave birth to her daughter.

“COSAM valued not only my contributions to sciences, but also me as a person,” she shared.

“Being able to interview for this position via video while I was 39-weeks pregnant showed me that COSAM has a supportive collegial work environment,” Dr. Leisner said. “Sending a person to physically be at my location throughout the entire interview process was above and beyond my expectations.”

 “During my video interview, I met with current faculty, gave a seminar and even had lunch with students,” she said.

Dr. Leisner is now an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and her work focuses on global change and plant physiology.

“I want to continue my research focusing on climate impacts on crop production and nutritional quality, with an emphasis on non-traditional row and horticulture crops,” Dr. Leisner stated. “Auburn is located in an area that grows a large amount of fruit and vegetable crops, and as a land grant university, there is a strong value in basic and applied agricultural research.” 

She attended The College of William and Mary for her undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Science. She then pursued her master’s degree at Washington State University. Here her interest for climate change grew as she researched plant responses in saline environments.

Dr. Leisner earned her doctorate degree at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She researched the responses of soybean reproductive development to future climate changes.

“Utilizing the FACE (free-air concentration enrichment) facility at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provided a unique opportunity to understand soybean production responses to different climate factors, such as the droughts ozone or elevated temperature, in an open-air field environment,” explained Dr. Leisner.

She then pursued her postdoctoral studies at Michigan State University where she focused on genomics and bioinformatics. There her research was primarily funded through an NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, which focused on using medicinal genomics to understand the biosynthesis of natural products in blueberries that have potential human health benefits.

In addition to blueberries, Dr. Leisner continued her climate change research in Michigan with a focus on potatoes. “Michigan is the number one potato chip producing state,” explained Dr. Leisner. “Through research as a collaborative team, we were able to analyze global climate models and project future impacts on elite potato chip-processing cultivars, including the overall impact on market quality for the consumer.”

This research project gave her the ability to test the interseasonal variation in temperature with global warming and how both future farming and crop storage could be greatly impacted.

In addition to research, Dr. Leisner is enjoying the ability to teach classes to students. Her first class at Auburn University is Genomic Biology. She is also working with two undergraduate students to get her lab up and running. She is excited to work with new crops relevant to Alabama in future experiments.

She lives with her husband Bill, her daughter, Evelyn and their two beloved Beagles. Dr. Leisner loves to cook and enjoys nature.


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