Principal Investigator

Dr. Courtney Leisner

B.Sc. The College of William and Mary (2007)
M.Sc. Washington State University (2009)
Ph.D. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (2014)
NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship, Michigan State (2015-2018)
Assistant Professor Auburn University (2018)

I joined the faculty at Auburn University in 2018 in the Department of Biological Sciences. My research group works to understand plant responses to their environment, with an emphasis on abiotic stress imposed by future climate change and their impacts on plant nutritional quality in diverse cropping systems. The overarching theme of my research program is to investigate how our changing climate and associated annual weather patterns impact our ability to produce a sufficient quantity of nutritious food for a growing world population. When I am not doing science I love spending time with my two beagles, two young children and cooking!

Post-doctoral Fellows

Dr. Lovely Mae Lawas

Dr. rer. nat. Molecular Plant Physiology (2019, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology/University of Potsdam)
M.S. Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (2015, University of the Philippines Los Baños)
B.S. Biology (2009, University of the Philippines Los Baños)

My research interests focus on how crops respond to abiotic stresses, in particular heat and drought, and in understanding the molecular and metabolic basis of plant stress tolerance. In the Leisner Lab I am studying the production of the specialized metabolite iridoid in blueberry by functional characterization of genes/enzymes involved in the biosynthetic pathway, as well as how it could potentially be impacted by predicted temperature changes in future climate. When not doing science, I enjoy traveling and unwinding over good food.

Ph.D. Students

Collin Modelski

Trinity College Class of 2020 Bachelor of Science in Biology (Cellular/Molecular Biology concentration)

I am interested in abiotic stress response in horticultural crops. I currently study how host—pathogen interactions are affected in response to climate change. Outside of research, I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and listening to 60s/70s music!

Giovani Rossi

Maringa State University (B.S., 2006)
University of Sao Paulo (M.S., 2011)

My research interests include the response of crop species to climate change, evaluating the impact of abiotic stressors and elevated [CO2] on plant physiology, and the genetic mechanisms behind these responses, with a focus on the development and abortion of flowers and fruits. In my free time, I like to watch movies and sports on tv, read things besides science and play sports like soccer and racquetball.


Ember Crutchfield

Bachelor of Science at Auburn University 2021 

During my time in the Leisner Lab, I have been working on our blueberry genomic project with the goal of identifying and cloning the ISY gene pathway in multiple different cultivars. I am super interested in ecology and conservation, and hope to pursue a career in biological research or management. When I’m not in class, I love to go hiking, reading, or just love to hang out with my friends!

Emma Peacock

I am a junior at Auburn University, majoring in Microbial Biology with a concentration in Molecular and Cellular Biology. I am interested in genetics and gene expression, and my current project is focusing on isolating iridoid biosynthesis pathway genes from multiple blueberry cultivars. Outside of the lab, I enjoy reading and listening to and discovering new music.

McKenzie Shelton

Graduating May 2021 with BS in Conservation and Biodiversity from Auburn. 

The past few semesters, I’ve been working primarily on the blueberry genomics project, with the goal of identifying and cloning the ISY gene in Ornablue buds and flowers. I am very interested in research surrounding plant responses to climate change, particularly in tropical and subtropical climates. Outside of work, I love to spend my time reading, gardening, and hiking. 

Sheridan Spivey

My major is Organismal Biology with a Public Health minor and I will be graduating in 2023. I am a new member of the undergraduate research team! I will be helping with basic responsibilities for our new project starting this spring.