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Joseph Cowles

Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences

November 14, 2008: Joe R. Cowles honored with emeritus status

Born: 1941, Edmondson County, Kentucky

Attended public schools in Kentucky

1963, B.S., Western Kentucky University
1965, M.S., University of Kentucky
1968, Ph.D. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
1968-69, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Purdue University
1969-70, Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Georgia

After serving as Assistant Professor of Biology (1970-76) and Associate Professor of Biology (1976-82) at the University of Houston, TX, he served as both Professor of Biology (1982-90) and Head of the Department of Biology (1981-90). Then, he moved to Virginia Tech as both Professor and Head of the Department of Biology (1990-2002), then served as Associate Dean (2002-06) and Interim Head of Economics (2006-08) before retiring in 2008.

Cowles research with students addressed symbiosis in legume plants, especially the role of DNA synthesis in regulating the growth of Rhizobium in the plant root. His research also included ribonucleotide reductase’s role in DNA synthesis using soybeans and Synorhizobium meliloti as models. Papers on bioconversion and tree growth rates also occur in his >40 published research works.

Cowles taught such courses as comparative biochemistry, biological instrumentation, plant physiology, cell and molecular biology. As department head at Virginia Tech, he helped improve the quality of research throughout and added the new area of strength in molecular biology.