2022 Michael K. Harless Faculty Excellence Award

Jim Adelman, Biological Sciences

Jim Adelman, Michael K. Harless Faculty Excellence Award 2022Jim Adelman is an assistant professor in the department of Biological Sciences, having joined the University of Memphis in 2019. He received his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University, followed by postdoctoral work at the Smithsonian Institution and Virginia Tech before accepting his first faculty position at Iowa State University.  

Adelman is most interested in the ecology of infectious diseases in animals, especially songbirds, and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The work focuses on two main questions: 1) why do immune and behavioral responses to infection vary so widely across individuals and populations? and 2) what does such variation mean for the spread and evolution of pathogens? Much of his work focuses on a common backyard visitor, the house finch, and their bacterial pathogen, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, which originated in poultry and causes severe conjunctivitis in wild finches. In the past 25 years, this system has provided many novel insights into how pathogens and hosts evolve following a cross-species transmission event—a topic of particular relevance in a post-COVID world. 

Outside of the university, Adelman chairs the Division of Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology within the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology and serves as an associate editor for Ornithology, a journal of the American Ornithological Society. He is also the “boss” of Nerd Nite Memphis, part of a global network featuring informative talks on widely-ranging (and yes, highly nerdy) topics, hosted locally at the Memphis Chess Club every month.