Leon V. Kochian is Director of the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, USDA/ARS, on the Cornell University campus, as well as Professor in the Departments of Plant Biology and Crop and Soil Science at Cornell University. He received his B.A. in Botany at the University of California at Berkeley in 1978, and his Ph.D. in Plant Physiology at the University of California at Davis in 1984. In 1985 he took a position as a Plant Physiologist with USDA-ARS at the U. S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory on the Cornell campus. At the same time, he became an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Biology and then in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell. Dr. Kochian became Research Leader of the U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory in 1997, and assumed the role of Center Director of the newly established Robert Holley Center in 2007. From 1985 to 1997, he also was promoted to Adjunct Associate and then Full Professor in both Cornell Departments.
Dr. Kochian’s research deals with the molecular biology and physiology of mineral ion transport processes as they relate to mineral nutrient acquisition, plant responses to abiotic environmental stresses, and micronutrient density of food crops. This involves the interdisciplinary application of research approaches from molecular biology, genetics, physiology, and biochemistry to understand fundamental mechanisms and genes that control mineral nutrient acquisition as well as tolerance to both mineral deficiencies and mineral excess (toxic metals) in the soil. In recent years, his research has focused more heavily on plant responses to environmental stresses, in particular research aimed at identifying and functionally characterizing genes that confer tolerance to aluminum toxicity for cereal production agriculture on acid soils, elucidating mechanisms of extreme heavy metal tolerance and micronutrient/heavy metal accumulation using hyperaccumulating plant species as model systems, and the role of changes in root architecture to tolerating deficient levels of nutrients (P) and water.