Professor Jonathan Cumming has been named interim chairperson of the Department of Biology in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, Dean Duane Nellis announced.

Dr. Cumming has been at WVU since 1995, and teaches courses in Environmental Biology, Plant Physiology, Symbioses in the Plant Kingdom and Advanced Plant Physiology, among others.

He was recognized by the Eberly College in 2003 as the Outstanding Teacher, and the WVU Foundation also honored him with the Outstanding Teacher Award that same year.

His research focuses on the critical role of the mycorrhizal symbiosis in plant response to the environment. Mycorrhizal fungi in soils form a ubiquitous mutually beneficial relationship with the roots of almost all plants. These fungi allow plants to survive in soils where nutrients are limiting and where stresses would otherwise kill the plants.

“Dr. Cumming brings an important range of qualities at a crucial time to one of our College’s largest undergraduate and research programs,”Dean Nellis said.

Cumming earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, a master’s from the University of New Hampshire and a doctorate from Cornell University.

He was an assistant professor for research at the University of Vermont prior to joining the WVU faculty.

“My goal as chair will be to advance our teaching mission to the increasing undergraduate population, fostering new opportunities for our biology majors and non-majors alike,”Cumming said.”At the same time, research is a critical component to the University’s mission and, working with Dean Nellis, I hope to facilitate ongoing and new areas of research that will provide opportunities for faculty scholarship, graduate training and undergraduate hands-on education.”

Cumming replaces Dr. Mark Walbridge who recently accepted a temporary position with the National Science Foundation.