Jeffrey Powell

Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, of Epidemiology, and of Environment

Jeff Powell, B.S. University of Notre Dame, Ph.D. University of California at Davis, faculty member at Yale since 1972:  You are a biologist who has given your career to the genetic aspects of the evolutionary process. Your trajectory as a researcher began after your undergraduate degree when, while studying at the Rockefeller Institute, you met your mentor Theodosius Dobzhansky, with whom you began your empirical studies of Drosophila. You followed Dobzhansky to UC Davis, and ever since then you have continued to use Drosophila as a model organism for your studies - but you also have applied modern evolutionary genetics to the study of mosquitos and Galápagos tortoises as well.

In studying mosquitos, you have focused on those species that carry deadly disease. Together with researchers from the universities in Rome and Mali, you have studied the patterns of genetic differentiation in disease carrying mosquitoes Anopheles and Aedes. The major ongoing project of your lab right now is a worldwide genetic analyses of populations of Aedes aegypti, “the yellow fever mosquito,” which today is of most concern as the major carrier of dengue fever. The results of all your research can be used in strategies to control transmission of the viruses generated by these deadly mosquitos, which threaten millions each year and are among the most deadly hazards to human health.

Along with Yale researcher Adalgisa Caccone and colleagues in her lab and your own, you have also continued fundamental genetic research on giant Galápagos tortoises. You have used a variety of molecular, genetic, and analytical tools including mitochondrial DNA analysis from extinct taxa, to gain a better understanding of species and to recognize species diversity among tortoises thought to be extinct since the days of Darwin in the mid-19th century. A more accurate delimitation of these species has permitted breeding efforts to support the reestablishment of species previously thought extinct to their native ranges.

Members of the academic arm of the Yale College Dean’s Office have reason to thank you for your exemplary citizenship. For fifteen years, as Director of Undergraduate Studies in your department, you were a superb collaborator with the deans in helping them navigate the evolution of undergraduate biological studies at Yale, especially in the Course of Study Committee, as new courses were discussed, categorized, analyzed, improved, and finally approved.

In the later stages of your career, you decided that you wanted to better understand the role of undergraduate varsity athletics at the university. You joined the Faculty Committee on Athletics where you served for a decade, along the way becoming the liaison for the varsity men’s ice hockey team, attending games, helping coaches to recruit players, and mentoring members of the team, especially in their academic pursuits. You gained appreciation and advocated for Yale student athletes, their accomplishments, challenges, and their experiences. As you retire to continue your research work in your lab with your NIH grant, your colleagues thank you for your research and citizenship  - and your fellow ice hockey fans hope they will continue to see you often in your accustomed seat at the Yale Whale.