My name is Tim Burnette and I am originally from Bedford, VA. I am a senior Biology major at Grinnell College in Iowa, USA, and I love plants! Plant biology has always been a primary interest of mine as I grew up in rural Virginia on a cattle farm; from an early age, it was clear that I had a green thumb and my many years after that in the garden demonstrated that in (vegetable) abundance.

Currently, I am a PhD Student in the Joy Ward lab at the University of Kansas. My research interests lie in plant physiology and evolutionary biology; I have spent the last two years examining responses to drought and developing a framework to consider adaptations in two different systems: The Clarkia genus (Onagraceae) and the Coloradan xeric tallgrass prairie. This former work has been mentored by Dr. Vincent Eckhart (Grinnell College) and the latter by Dr. Katharine Suding (University of Colorado Boulder). My work at KU will build on these projects by examining the physiological decline of white ash trees and their responses by gender.

In the future, I intend to continue researching on this topic of drought stress, but also more broadly on environmental stressors and plant responses. I plan to use my research in the classroom as a professor, but I also want to share my work with non-botanists. I love plants, and I don’t want to be the only one around who is interested in them. I love telling people about all of the cool adaptations that plants have, sharing with non-botanists all the exciting and unique traits. I’m just as passionate about teaching others about plants as I am about plants themselves. In my mind, sharing what we already know about this diverse kingdom is just as important as learning more about it.

In my spare time, I love running and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race (read: Asia O’Hara’s Drag Race). I am also extremely active in the low-income student community, where I have (a) co-founded a textbook lending library, (b) performed a case study and published research on belonging at liberal arts colleges across social class, and (c) collaborated with the Grinnell College President’s Office and Student Affairs to enact changes across campus.

Research Areas:
Physiology, Evolution, Environmental Plant Biology


Burnette, T.E. (2018). Narrative of difference: the effects of social class on belonging at liberal arts colleges. International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, 10(4).

Manuscripts in preparation

Burnette, T.E. & Eckhart, V. Responses to extreme drought in Clarkia subspecies and recombinant inbred lines at seed, seedling, and adult stages. Anticipated journal: Plant Physiology.

Burnette, T.E. & Eckhart, V. Points of no return: ecologically important or pressure-volume relations artifacts? Anticipated journal: Plant, Cell and Environment.

Burnette, T.E., Larson, J., White, C., & Suding, K. Functional traits predict drought responses in short- and long-term plant community trends in xeric tallgrass prairie of Colorado. Anticipated Journal: Oecologia.

James, A., Burnette, T.E., & Eckhart, V. Water relations and implications for coexistence in Clarkia congeners. Anticipated Journal: Oecologia.

Non-Peer Reviewed

Burnette, T.E. (2018). “Wealthier students: Beware further marginalizing your low-income peers.” The Scarlet and Black, Grinnell College.

Burnette, T.E. (2016). “An Open Letter to President Kington.” Grinnell Underground Magazine.

Volunteer Activities

2017-Present   Central Virginia Governor’s School for Science and Technology, Plant Sciences Junior Research Co-Mentor.

2018-2019       Grinnell College Curriculum Committee, Science Department Student Representative.

2018                University of Colorado Boulder Diversity Initiative’s STEM Pre-Collegiate Development Program, Science Fair Judge and ‘This is What a Scientist Looks Like’ Panelist.

2016-2017       Grinnell College Student Affairs and President’s Office, Taskforce on Residential Learning: Grinnell’s Core Course.

2016-2017       QuestBridge Scholarship Foundation, President and Liaison at Grinnell College.

2016-2017       Grinnell College Sociology Department, Student Educational Advisory Committee.

2016                Grinnell College Student Affairs, Social Class Awareness Week: Founder and Student Leader

Current Affiliations
Experience & Education