Richard “Rick” Meilan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) at Purdue University. Rick received his B.S. (summa cum laude) in Forest Science from Humboldt State University (HSU) in 1983, his M.S. in Forestry from HSU in 1985, and a joint Ph.D. (with honors) in Botany (Physiology and Molecular Biology) and Forestry (Forest Biology) from Iowa State University in 1990. He worked four years as a Rockefeller Foundation post-doctoral research fellow before joining the faculty in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He was on the faculty in the Forest Science Department at Oregon State University for nine years before coming to Purdue in October 2003.
In his laboratory, Rick uses molecular tools to investigate the genetic mechanisms by which key aspects of tree growth and development are controlled. He is also attempting to domesticate and add value to various tree species by genetically engineering them to express genes that impart environmentally beneficial and commercially important traits. Active research projects include efforts to insert genes that control flowering, as a means of transgene confinement; insect (Emerald Ash Borer) resistance; herbicide tolerance; and lignin composition. He and his group are also trying to identify genes that regulate the transition from sapwood to heartwood, the formation of figured wood, and the initiation of lateral and adventitious roots.