Jesse A. Poland


Professor of Plant Science | Principal Investigator of the Plant Breeding and Genetics Lab


Jesse Poland is Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Center for Desert Agriculture at KAUST. He was appointed to the Graduate Faculty in Plant Science, where he serves as Major Professor and Committee Member for students in Plant Genomics, Breeding, and Genetics. Poland is also acting director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics, with a focus on applying genomics tools to accelerate wheat breeding and developing climate resilient wheat varieties throughout the world.

Research Interests

Poland’s group at KAUST focuses on the formidable questions of how to develop climate resilient crops to address the grand challenges of food security in the coming generations. Poland leads work on important crops including wheat and date palm to better understand the dynamic plant genomes and increasing genetic gain in crop breeding. Looking at the grand challenges facing agriculture, the lab also focuses on species with extreme stress tolerance such as saltgrass (Distichlis spp.) that can grow in salinity at the level of seawater. Neodomestication, breeding, and cultivation of such species could provide a trajectory change for agriculture in the face of hotter climates and rapidly shrinking water reserves.

Selected Publications


  • PhD, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, 2010
  • MSc, Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, 2004
  • BSc, Agronomy, Kansas State University, 2003

Professional Profile

  • 2021-present: Professor, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
  • 2013-present: ex situ Director, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomics
  • 2021: Professor, Kansas State University
  • 2017-2021: Associate Professor, Kansas State University
  • 2014-2021: Associate Director, Wheat Genetics Resource Center I/UCRC
  • 2014-2017: Assistant Professor, Kansas State University
  • 2010-2014: Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS, Manhattan, KS
  • 2010-2014: Adjunct Assistant Professor, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • Crop Science Society of America


  •  National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Early Career Scientist Award, Sept 2016