Martha Graham James

Honored by:Michael E. Myszewski
Brick location:PAVER:7  map

Martha Graham James was born in Des Moines, Iowa to John G. and Barbara (Hornaday) Graham, the oldest of their three daughters. She attended Des Moines public elementary schools and graduated from Roosevelt High School. Martha received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in Economics in 1968 and was recognized as the outstanding Senior woman of the University at graduation. Following her marriage to Gordon James she returned to Des Moines to raise their three children Katherine (Kate), Allison Fae, and John Graham.

Martha actively participated in many organizations including Iowa Children's and Family Services, Tiny Tots, Inc., YMCA Youth Home Board, the Young Women's Resource Center, Junior League of Des Moines, Parent Teacher Associations, and activities of Plymouth Congregational Church of Christ.

In 1980, Martha resumed her education by enrolling at Drake University to work on a Master of Science degree in Biology. This degree was awarded in 1985 following the completion of her thesis research entitled, "Cell Growth Parameters and Sister Chromatid Exchange Level in Fibroblasts from a Patient Diagnosed with Bloom Syndrome."

Her education continued as Martha entered the Department of Genetics at Iowa State University the fall quarter of 1985 working under the direction of Dr. Joan Stadler. The Doctor of Philosophy degree was awarded in 1989 for her original contributions to the field of maize genetics with the dissertation entitled "Analysis of Mutator activity in embryogenic callus cultures and regenerated plants of Zea mays L." These studies were the first to demonstrate the activity of a transposable genetic element, Mutator, in maize embryogenic and endosperm callus cultures and in plants regenerated from tissue culture.

Between 1989 and 1992, Martha conducted research as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Iowa State University, working with Dr. Alan M. Myers. The focus of this research was to analyze Mutator induced mutations that affected maize kernel development. These studies combined classical genetic analysis resulting from field plantings of many genetic varieties of maize with molecular investigations to isolate the genetic material responsible for the mutated maize genes.

Since 1993, Martha has continued her research as an Associate Scientist in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Iowa State University. This research centers on the characterization of the maize gene, Sugary 1, a gene that acts in the metabolism of starch and is one of the genes responsible for "making sweet corn sweet." Overall, her research seeks to provide a clearer understanding of the processes of starch biosynthesis.

Martha's research has been funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and she is the author of several articles published in leading scientific journals.

Located in the grass, just off Morrill Road, between the library and LeBaron Hall on the Iowa State University campus is a boulder that bears a tablet commemorating one of Martha's relatives, W. K. Hornaday, a zoologist and conservationist whose contributions "have been of immeasurable benefit to America." The inscription tells us that "It was on this campus as a student June 1873 that. . . . 'I found myself . . . ."' In a similar, way some 120 years later Martha has likewise found herself as a creative and productive scientist.

Martha is now married to Michael E. Myszewski and they reside in Des Moines.


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"Martha Graham James"