Anne Alerding, Ph.D.

Alerding-thumb Welcome to Major Alerding's Website




Assistant Professor of Biology
203-E Science Hall |  Ph: 540-464-7654  | 


Plant metabolism, biofuel development from crop residues, genetic engineering


Faculty Positions:

Assistant Professor, VMI Biology, 2008 to present
Visiting Assistant Professor, Washington and Lee, 2007-2008
Visiting Assistant Professor, James Madison University, 2006-2007
Visiting Assistant Professor, Lynchburg College, 2005-2006
Adjunct Professor, Bridgewater College, 2004-2005 

VMI Awards Faculty Development Leave, Fall 2012: “Selecting a soybean cultivar for genetic engineering of biofuel traits, with opportunities for cadet research”

USDA Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Virginia Tech, 2002-2004: “Investigating the roles of flavonols in plants through molecular analyses of flavonol synthase isoforms” 


Ph.D. in Plant Physiology, The Pennsylvania State University, 2003
Dissertation: “The chloroplast as mediator of phenolic induction”

M.Sc. in Botany, University of British Columbia, 1995
Thesis: “Carbon allocation patterns in plants and plant ecosystems”

B.Sc.H. in Biology, Queen’s University at Kingston; 1991
Honors Thesis: “Interactions between photosynthesis, respiration and nitrogen assimilation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii” 


Courses I teach:  

BI 101 and 102: General Biology
BI 217: Botany
BI 322: Plant Physiology
BI 420: Biology Seminar

Teaching Philosophy:  

I designed Botany to be an academic survey of the structures, functions, and evolutionary relationships among plants, algae, and fungi. Students gain unique perspectives on human interactions through workshops with local professionals (e.g. medicinal herbalist, broom-maker). I also incorporate community outreach exercises to allow cadets to gain valuable experiences as biologists while giving back to society. Cadets recently directed a teaching lab, guiding AP Biology students through a plant identification exercise with their personalized teaching plans. My Plant Physiology course presents a detailed study and analysis of plant functioning. To improve critical thinking skills in both this course and the Senior Capstone experience, students are required to read primary literature and are assessed on their performance as both discussion leaders and participants. I incorporate original research using hypothesis-driven experiments and current tools. Students learn genomic approaches with gene expression databases, present research posters, and prepare scientific reports. In both Plant Physiology and Senior Capstone, my guidance on report preparation and literature comprehension helps cadets improve writing, analytical, and evaluative skills that will be useful in their future careers. I teach primarily nonmajors in General Biology, where I also introduce students to primary research literature and scientific writing. I believe that all students are capable of success in the sciences. I encourage students to be active by using online course and to meet with me for study strategy and review sessions, writing analyses, and constant support and encouragement. I set high standards, and I work closely with my students to ensure they succeed. 


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 BI 217 Botany Laboratory 

VMI Cadet Jenna Moye '13 teaching an AP Biology student
how to use a dichotomous key in VMI's first teaching lab (Fall 2011) 



Research Interests:  

Conducting research, especially as a mentor to undergraduates, is an invigorating part of my position at VMI. The foundation of my research program is its interdisciplinary nature. I am a plant biologist trained in physiological, molecular, ecological, and biochemical techniques and it is the hypothesis that drives my research rather than the organism. Focusing on how plants partition carbon resources acquired by photosynthesis to produce unique chemistries, I have worked on unicellular algae, parsley cells in suspension culture, tobacco, soybean, and the genetic model, Arabidopsis. I have completed a project examining community ecology aspects of an invasive species, garlic mustard, and its impact on understory forest communities. Currently, my laboratory is one of three components of the new VMI CLEAR (Clean Energy and Air Resources) center that Drs. Moore, Pennington and I began in fall 2011. This center is working to train a workforce of students to develop sources of sustainable energy from plant biomass residues. The other components are housed in Civil Engineering Department, optimizing biofuel production from crop residues, and in the Department of English and Fine Arts which focuses on developing communication skills in our trained researchers. The research that I am conducting involves the development of a genetically modified plant, the Virginia soybean, to will produce high seed yield and optimized cell wall biomolecules enabling use of its stem residues as a fuel crop. My goal is to apply fundamental knowledge about plant chemistry to the genetic engineering of a dual-use food and fuel crop plant to be cultivated on the same plot of land.

Recent Publications: * Denotes Cadet Co-Author

1. Alerding, A.B. and *R.M. Hunter “Increased springtail abundance in a garlic mustard invaded forest,” accepted by Northeastern Naturalist in October 2012.
2. *Waalkes, M.R. and A.B. Alerding. 2011. Possible chemical attractant to white tail deer in Campanulastrum americanum. New Horizons: VMI Journal of Undergraduate Writing 5:79-88.
3. Alerding, A.B. Garlic mustard: friend or foe? Virginia Native Plant Society Upper James River Chapter Newsletter, Spring 2011, 3-5.
4. Owens, D.K., A.B. Alerding, K.C. Crosby, A.B. Bandara, J.H. Westwood, and B.S.J. Winkel. 2008. Functional analysis of a predicted flavonol synthase gene family in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 147:1046-1061. 

Grants and Awards:  

1. Co-PI, “MRI: Acquisition of an Elemental Determinator and Portable Emissions Analyzer for the VMI-CLEAR Research Program” with Tim Moore, Linsey Marr, and Mary Beth Pennington, NSF, $141,457 (2012)
2. VMI Awards Faculty Development Leave, “Selecting a Soybean Cultivar for Genetic Engineering of Biofuel Traits, with opportunities for cadet research” (2012)
3. VMI Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award for junior faculty (2011)
4. Co-PI, “VMI Clean Energy & Air Resources Research, Education and Workforce Development Program,” with Tim Moore, 2011 Jackson-Hope New Directions in Teaching and Research Grant. $86,410 (2011)
5. Co-PI, Dominion Foundation Grant, “VMI CLEAR (Clean Energy & Air Resources) Workforce Development Program,” with Tim Moore and Mary Beth Pennington. $40,000 to purchase atmosphere envelope furnace (2011)
6. Grant in Aid, VMI, “Legumes as a Source of Sustainable Energy,” $5,276 (2011) 

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Research Student Matthew Waalkes '13  

Harvesting soybeans from a 2011 field experiment for
his VMI Institute Honors Thesis

Co-Curricular Involvement:

VMI Knitting and Crocheting Club  

I started the new VMI Knitting and Crocheting Club at VMI in the fall of 2009, and I serve as the faculty advisor for the club. The club consists of both cadets and the members of the broader VMI community, and our mission is to introduce cadets to giving back to the community through charitable knitting projects. To date, we have raised nearly $2000 to support charities such as the Care Box Project, Wounded Warrior Project, Project Horizon, and Headhuggers.


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VMI Knitting and Crocheting Club Fundraiser 

Members of the VMI Knitting and Crocheting Club raising funds for Wounded Warrior Project