Dr. Schnable received his BS from Cornell University in 1981 and his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1986. His Ph.D. research with Peter Peterson involved a genetic characterization of the Mutator transposon system of maize. During 1986-1988 Schnable conducted post-doctoral research with Heinz Saedler at the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Zuechtungsforschung in Germany. During this period Schnable was supported by an NIH fellowship and conducted molecular characterizations of Mutator transposons.
Schnable joined the faculty of Iowa State University in 1988 and is currently a professor in the departments of Agronomy and Genetics, Development and Cell Biology. He manages a vigorous research program that emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to understanding plant biology. His own expertise is in the areas of genetics, molecular biology and genomics, but he collaborates with researchers in diverse fields, including biochemistry, plant breeding, plant physiology, bioinformatics, and computer science.
He serves as PI or co-PI on several multi-million dollar research grants. Although the bulk of this funding is from federal sources (e.g., NSF and USDA), Schnable has also secured research funding from industrial sources and international agencies. In 1999 he played a key role in securing a $3M gift from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust that helped to fund the construction of the new Plant Sciences Institute building, the Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory.
Schnable publishes and lectures widely. He is active in technology transfer and has deposited hundreds of thousands of DNA sequences in GenBank. He was a recipient of the Raymond and Mary Baker Agronomic Excellence Award in 2000 and a co-recipient of the College of Agriculture Research Team Award in 2005.
Schnable serves as the director of the Center for Plant Genomics within the Plant Sciences Institute. The initiative that led to the creation of this institute was a direct outgrowth of a report issued in 1997 by the Plant Biology Planning Committee, of which Schnable was a member. More recently he served on a similar campus-wide planning committee that produced a report on Information Sciences and Technology.
To stay at the cutting edge of research, Schnable has consistently adopted the most advanced technologies to address biological questions. This led him to spearhead efforts to establish the ISU Plant Transformation Facility (PTF) and the Iowa Genomic Frontiers (IGF) Cluster. The PTF provides maize and soybean transformation services to public-sector researchers across the country. The IGF Cluster was established in 1998 to provide cutting-edge genomics resources, including MicroArray and Proteomic capabilities. It has since been subsumed into the Center for Plant Genomics.
Schnable was instrumental in the establishment of the Iowa Computational Biology Laboratory. The ICBL arose via an exciting collaboration between biologists and computational scientists and eventually evolved into the Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics in the Plant Sciences Institute and led to the creation of the graduate major in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. In 1998 Schnable and co-organizers Drena Dobbs and Gavin Naylor, organized a workshop entitled, "Advances and Challenges in Computational Biology". Speakers included Drs. Lee Hood (University of Washington) and Stuart Kaufmann (Sante Fe Institute). In 1998, Schnable helped Dan Ashlock (Mathematics) establish and teach a new course in "Computational Molecular Biology".
More recently, in collaboration with Drs. Aluru (Computer Science) and Ashlock (Mathematics, University of Guelph), his team released an assembly of the maize genome that has since become an important community resource for functional translational genomics.
Schnable is an active participant in interdisciplinary graduate training programs. He serves as the associate chair for the Interdepartmental Genetics program and is an active member of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program, Interdepartmental Plant Physiology Major, and the Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology program. He serves as the Project Director of a USDA National Needs Fellowship program and as a co-PD of a $2.4M NSF IGERT training grant in computational molecular biology. Schnable also established an industry-funded graduate training program in maize molecular genetics. In addition, he worked closely with former ICBL director, Jim Cornette (Mathematics), to establish a graduate training program in Bioinformatics that is modeled after the maize genetics training program and that is also funded by industry. Schnable has received several NSF REU awards, including most recently, one associated with his NSF Plant Genome project that supports undergraduate students at Truman State University, one of the premier undergraduate institutions in the US.
Schnable has served on several major committees at ISU, including:
- Director of Academic Information Technology, search committee (1997-1998)
- Provost, search committee (1998-1999)
- Dean of Agriculture, search committee (2000)
- Head of Agronomy, search committee (2000)
- Director of the Plant Sciences Institute, search committee (1999-2000)
- Associate Director of Government Relations, search committee(2000)
- College of Agriculture's Promotion and Tenure Committee, search committee (2003-Present)
- Provost's Task Force to Review Institutes and Centers, search committee (2003)
- Bioenergy Steering Committee (2006-Present)
- Biorenewables Complex Building Committee (2007-Present)
He has served on multiple review panels and advisory boards, including:
- Steering Committee, Maize Genetics Cooperative (1993-1996, 2002-2004)
- Maize Genetics Executive Committee (2000-2004, 2006-2010; Chair 2003-2004)
- NSF Technical Review Team, Missouri MaizeDB, 2001
- Scientific Advisory Board, NSF-funded Potato Genome Project (2003-2003)
- Scientific Advisory Board, NSF-funded Cell Wall Project (2003-present)
- Scientific Advisory Board, NSF-funded Wheat SNP Project (2003-present)
- Advisory Board, Cereal Genomics Workshop, CSHL (2003-present)
- Committee of Visitors, Training Cluster, NSF-DBI (2003)
- National Science Foundation, Small Business Innovation Research (Agricultural Biotechnology), 2003
- Elected Member-at-Large, AAAS Section Committee of the Agriculture, Food and Renewable Resources Section (2005-2009)
- Working Group, MaizeGDB (2006-present)