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Ralph Obendorf

Ralph Obendorf

Professor

617 Bradfield Hall
(607) 227-9313

Ralph L. Obendorf, Professor Emeritus, is a specialist in Seed Biology with teaching and research responsibilities. His research addressed factors and functions that regulate seed growth, seed maturation, tolerance to desiccation, and seed performance. His work on soluble carbohydrates in seeds as related to desiccation tolerance and germination led to the discovery of new health-related compounds in seeds. Obendorf's research emphasized the training of 2-12 undergraduate students in research each semester. He had 13 undergraduates in his lab in 2007 and 52 undergraduate coauthors since 1997. His research and teaching are globally recognized. Obendorf was active in numerous professional societies nationally and internationally. He was president of the International Society for Seed Science (1999-2005) and is owner/editor (1995-present) of SEED-BIOLOGY-L@cornell.edu, a highly successful mailing list promoting global exchange of information on seed research among 450 subscribers residing in 50 countries and 45 states.

Research Focus

Ralph L. Obendorf was a specialist in Seed Biology with teaching and research responsibilities. His research addressed factors and functions that regulate seed growth, seed maturation, tolerance to desiccation, and seed performance. His work on soluble carbohydrates in seeds as related to desiccation tolerance and germination led to the discovery of new health-related compounds in seeds. One of these, fagopyritol A1, is isosteric to an insulin mediator believed to be deficient in subjects with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM or type II diabetes) and polycystic ovary syndrome (affecting 10% of women of reproductive age). Three genes have been cloned from buckwheat seeds and heterologously expressed in bacteria; the purified recombinant enzyme proteins catalyze the biosynthesis of fagopyritols and one may also catalyze the biosynthesis of a putative insulin mediator. Nine patents have been awarded since 1998. Obendorf has trained more than 230 undergraduates in research and he emphasized the training of 2-12 undergraduate students in research each semester. He had 52 undergraduate coauthors since 1997. His research and teaching are globally recognized. Obendorf was active in numerous professional societies nationally and internationally. He was president-elect and president of the International Society for Seed Science (1999-2005) and is owner/editor (1995-present) of SEED-BIOLOGY-L@cornell.edu, a highly successful mailing list promoting global exchange of information on seed research among 450 subscribers residing in 50 countries and 45 states. He was frequently invited to prepare reviews on select topics and to serve as reviewer of manuscripts for multiple journals. He participated in international seed research conferences and symposia.

Teaching Focus

Obendorf’s teaching responsibilities included “Teaching Experience" (BioG 4980, CSS 4980), “Undergraduate Research” (CSS 4990), "Independent Research in Biology" (BioG 4990), "Introduction to Research Methods" (BioG 2990), "Field Crop Systems" (CSS 2110 and CSS 4050), and “Seed Biology” (CSS 6120) with an emphasis on training society ready graduates through Fall 2011. Obendorf has served as academic advisor to about 135 undergraduate students and has trained >230 undergraduates in research. He mentored 2-15 undergraduates each year in research resulting in 52 undergraduate coauthors on refereed journal papers. At least 39 undergraduates presented their research in CURB’s Cornell Undergraduate Research Symposium. One presented her undergraduate research in an international seed development symposium in Salamanca, Spain, in May 2002. One presented her undergraduate research at an international symposium in Cambridge, UK, in April 2003. Two presented their research at an international symposium on soy in Florida in September 2003. Another presented her undergraduate research at an international seed biology conference in Olsztyn, Poland, in July 2008. Two were awarded first and third place in a national Undergraduate Research Symposium Oral Presentation Contest, and one was awarded best undergraduate presentation in an international professional meeting in 2003. One received the Goldwater Scholarship in 2008. One received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence in 2005 and also received Highest Honors in the Plant Biology Research Honors Program in 2005. Another received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Work-Study Employee Award in 1995. One was a Cornell-Hughes Program Scholar in 2006, four in 2003, and two in 2002. Three students received funded undergraduate research grants in 2008-2009, three in 2007-2008, five in 2006-2007, three in 2005-2006, three in 2004-2005, ten in 2003-2004, three in 2003, and two in 2002. Four students completed Undergraduate Research Honors projects in Plant Biology (2003, 2005, 2008) and Plant Science Honors Programs (2003-2004). One to fifteen students conducted undergraduate research projects each year. Four undergraduates from a French university and one high school NSF intern in the Environmental Sciences Program were trained in his lab. Recent students trained in his lab pursued research degree programs including PhD programs in molecular biology at Weill Cornell, Stanford, Princeton, and Illinois, PhD in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and Cal Tech, PhD in biomedical sciences at Univ Calif at San Diego, MS or MPH programs at Columbia, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Seattle (U. Washington), or coupled PhD research programs with doctorate programs in medicine (MD) (Michigan, UCLA) or veterinary medicine (DVM) (Ohio). Other recent graduates are attending or recently graduated from medical schools (Richmond VA, Oakland CA, Stanford, Yale, Toronto, Sydney, Navy-Bethesda, Columbia, New York University, New Jersey, and others). Two are attending or recently graduated from law schools.

Selected Publications

Journal Publications