Elizabeth Anne Zimmer
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Elizabeth Zimmer is a research biologist in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. While there, her research has focused on the development of DNA markers for understanding relationships and genome evolution among green plants, particularly among lineages of early flowering plants.
Fossils and DNA sequences suggest diverse floral forms were present early in angiosperm evolution. Genetic studies with higher dicots have resulted in the “ABC” model in which organ identity is established by overlapping expression of three classes of genes in four whorls of the flower (sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels). Most ABC genes are in a superfamily of transcription factors known as “MADS-box” genes, which, when mutated, display formation of floral organ identity in adjacent whorls. Floral morphology of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), a member of basal eudicots, is particularly diverse in the perianth (sepals + petals). Zimmer will examine MADS-box gene sequence and expression in selected species of ranunculid genera including Clematis and Anemone using electron microscopy, DNA sequencing and RNA assays via RT-PCR, in situ hybridization, and protein-antibody localization.
Zimmer received a BS from Cornell University and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and Washington University before taking a faculty position at Louisiana State University, from which she was recruited to the Smithsonian in 1990. She has published more than eighty scientific papers and edited two books on methods in molecular evolution. She received the Dobzhansky Prize of the Society for Study of Evolution, a National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award, and a National Science Foundation Visiting Professorship for Women.