David Des Marais
David Des Marais joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as an assistant professor in October. He received his BA in integrative biology from the University of California at Berkeley, in 2000, studying plant diversity and evolution, and a PhD in biology from Duke University. His dissertation addressed how multifunctional proteins evolve within and between species. Des Marais did postdoctoral research at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was awarded a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to investigate plant responses to multiple environmental stresses experienced concurrently. Most recently, he was a principal investigator in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, as well as a senior fellow at the Arnold Arboretum. Des Marais’ research interests are in plant ecophysiology, evolutionary biology, and functional genomics. He is particularly interested in plant interactions with the abiotic environment — water, temperature, nutrients, and light — and how plants respond when these factors impose stress. He studies natural diversity within and between plant species both in the field and in controlled environments, and he hopes to develop a mechanistic understanding or plant performance to conserve natural plant populations and to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability.