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TCNJ Biology Alumnus Wins Prestigious American Society of Plant Taxonomists Research Award for Undergraduate Scholars

Aaron Lee ’19

Biology alumnus Aaron Lee (Fall 2019) has been selected by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) as a recipient of its 2020 Undergraduate Research Prize. The Undergraduate Research Prize (URP) is the Society’s most prestigious recognition of undergraduate achievement. The URP has been presented annually at the international Botany conference since 2015 for outstanding, independent research projects in plant systematics completed within the last two years.

Aaron Lee was recognized for his outstanding botanical research which was completed in collaboration with Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Wendy Clement. Lee investigated honeysuckle genomics and evolution. His Honor’s Thesis, entitled “Honeysuckles in the Age of Genomics,” focused on honeysuckle organ fusion, genome assembly, and phylogenetic reconstructions of genes from functional traits of interest. Motivated after a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program working on plant genomics at Michigan State University, Lee completed work with Dr. Clement that revealed the first evidence for the molecular basis of the evolution of organ fusion in Lonicera and Caprifoliaceae and established a robust phylogenetic framework to evaluate NAC gene family evolution.

Aaron Lee will begin his graduate studies this fall. In her letter of nomination, Dr. Clement noted that “I am thrilled to know he will continue to be a part of the botany and evolution community and look forward to all his contributions to our field with great anticipation.” Lee has presented twice at Botany conferences. His most recent appearance at Botany 2020 was in the Evolutionary Developmental Biology session where he presented a talk entitled “Honeysuckle (Lonicera, Caprifoliaceae, Dipsacales) NAC subfamily Ia evolution and implications for the evolution of organ fusion.”

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