BS in Horticulture Science; Michigan State University

PhD in Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology; Michigan State University

Hardigan CV

Michael received his bachlor’s degree in Horticulture Science at Michigan State University, after which he joined the laboratory of Dr. C. Robin Buell in the Department of Plant Biology as a PhD student in the MSU Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) graduate program. During this time, he studied the genome biology of cultivated potato (Solanum tuberosum) and its various wild tuber-bearing relatives native to South America and Mesoamerica. This work involved applying genome sequencing approaches to provide an in-depth view of the landscape of genetic diversity within the genomes of potatoes across different ploidy levels, revealing that due to prolific copy number variation (CNV) on par with frequencies observed in maize, diploid potatoes are among the most genetically diverse of major crop species. It was further demonstrated that the rampant CNV within the potato genome demonstrated preferential associations with genes that had evolved specifically within the Solanum or potato species lineage, with genes functioning in biotic and abiotic stress tolerance, and silenced loci. Further research comparing modern S. tuberosum cultivars adapted to North America against native Andean landraces and wild species provided new insights into the origins of potato domestication, and identified loci that were selected for performance during the potato domestication process. It was also shown that the development of a long-day tetraploid potato (group Tuberosum) group included distinct wild species allelic introgressions, including the introduction of novel alleles from specific wild potato species at the potato maturity locus that are not found in the short-day potato germplasm (group Andigena).

Michael graduated with his PhD in late 2016 and joined the strawberry breeding lab of Dr. Steven Knapp at UC Davis, where he is working on projects to study how strawberry germplasm diversity has been impacted since the start of the University of California strawberry breeding program in the early 1900s.