AJ Harris in the Xiang Lab at NCSU in 2005This year we lost another brilliant evolutionary biologist much too early! AJ Harris lost her battle with cervical cancer on January 15th at her home in Indiana at the young age of 44. AJ was a BSA member and the leading organizer of the Beringia symposium at Botany 2022 in Anchorage, has led Colloquia at our conferences, and was a staunch supporter and promoter of women in botany and diversity at all levels. Her research endeavors were highly integrative, spanning traditional specimen-based science, paleobotany, phylogenomics, biogeography, and computational biology. AJ’s studies and research took her to North Carolina State University, the Smithsonian, Oberlin College, and AJ received her PhD from Oklahoma State University in Botany. She was known for working with many colleagues across the globe, especially in China where she has spent the last two years as an associate professor at the South China Botanical Garden, CAS.

To honor AJ, members of our community seek to establish an award with the Botanical Society of America to support graduate student research. In this way, her name will continue to resonate with botanists well into the future.

If you had a personal and/or professional connection to AJ, we encourage you to join us in honoring this remarkable woman. Please spread the word to help us expand the reach of this effort so that we may support the research of our early career scientists in AJ’s honor.

With warm regards,

Steffi Ickert-Bond, University of Alaska-Fairbanks
Jenny Xiang, North Carolina State University
Jun Wen, Smithsonian Institution

2024 AJ Harris Graduate Student Research Award Winner

Malith Viduranga Weerapperuma achchi athukoralage don, Texas A & M university, For the Proposal: Phylogenetics and biogeography of Family Balsaminaceae: Special emphasis on South and southeastern Asia

AJ Harris in the Xiang Lab at NCSU in 2005


Do you have memories of AJ you would like to share? Email with your name, memory, and institution (if any) and it will be added to the memory wall. You can also share memories on social media by using the hashtag #AJHarrisMemorial. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this Memory Wall.

  • "I loved AJ's voice, her smile and her laugh. Her joyful spirit was contagious. Working with her on a symposium at IBC in Shenzhen was a lot of fun, and she organized a lovely dinner for all the speakers. Of course, the late Alan Graham read one of his stories he wrote for the occasion. I am sure AJ will have a beautiful smile for the ages on her face when the two will meet in that heavenly place. Miss you AJ!" - Stefanie Ickert-Bond, University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • "A.J. and I met as graduate students at the Smithsonian. We planned some work on the fossil record of the Rosales and studying extinction selectivity in the face of paleoclimate change. It is a terrible shame that this work will now never happen, not with her being a part of it. Good bye, A.J. May there be a heaven where we will meet again." - Andy Simpson, Anne Arundel Community College; National Museum of Natural History

  • "AJ had a fantastic presence at the Smithsonian as a Peter Buck postdoctoral fellow, and was active in mentoring undergraduate interns and helpful to graduate students, postdocs, and visitors in the Department of Botany. AJ was such a warm soul and was extremely helpful to numerous colleagues and friends nearly to the end of her life. Almost everyone is in disbelief that AJ is gone. AJ, you will be deeply missed!!!" - Jun Wen, Smithsonian Institution

  • "AJ was a very bright student and helped coalesce the lab while she studied for her M.S. degree in my lab. Her cheerful voice and laugh brightened the day of people around her. She was a quick learner and her knowledge was often inspired from her broad reading of the literature and she often brought these new ideas to lab discussions. She harbored great curiosity about nature, was highly motivated for creative research, and wasn't afraid of trying different areas, worked hard and bravely challenged herself. We continued our research collaboration after she left NCSU and often had vigorous discussions and friendly debates about research and data analyses when we saw each other at conferences or on her way back home to Burlington, NC stopping by to see me. She was a student, soon a friend and a colleague of mine, and then a mentor to other students. She had always been very generous in helping students and visiting scholars in my lab in running computer programs for data analyses in phylogenetics and biogeography. She is remembered for her kindness, care for others, and many contributions to biodiversity research and mentoring of students." - Jenny Xiang, Professor, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

  • "AJ and I were in the same cohort in Botany at NCSU. We then would run into each other at conferences and grab coffee or lunch to catch up. Her passion and joy for botany were infectious and grew over time. She always had a bright smile for everyone, and her kindness was legendary. I remember presenting research at the same graduate symposium at NCSU, and her energy permeated the room and get everyone interested in her work. Whenever she walked into the graduate office she did so with a bounce in her step and a smile on her face. I can only guess at the number of students her energy and love of plants influence into careers in botany. The botany community will feel her loss for years to come." - Dr. Kristine Callis-Duehl, Driemeyer Director of Education Research and Outreach, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center


AJ Harris

BSA is collecting funds in memory of AJ Harris to establish a graduate student research award in her name in perpetuity. We are thrilled to announce that the first goal of $20,000 has been met and an award will be established! Thank you to all who have supported the AJ Harris memorial graduate student research award fund! 

A second goal has been proposed that will allow the AJ Harris Graduate Student Research Award to be at the same award level as the other current Graduate Student Research Awards, which is $1500. For this to happen, an additional $5000 will need to be raised by September 30, 2023. Please consider donating further to reach this additional goal.

Graduate student research awards are open to all students, including non-US citizens. Your donation to this fundraising effort to the BSA is tax deductible and you will receive a tax donation receipt upon making your gift. Thank you for your contributions in honor of AJ Harris.

Original Goal = $20,000
Raised = $20,000
Left to Raise = $0

New Goal = $5,000 more
Raised = $2,406.40
Left to Raise = $2,593.60

This new goal will raise the annual award to $1,500 per year.

Deadline for fundraiser is September 30, 2023.

Blue Donate Here Button

To give click here and choose "Student Research Award in honor of AJ Harris". We are proud to provide an acknowledgement of donors to this fundraiser on the AJ Harris Memorial Page. If you do not want your name included please email and your donation will be viewed as anonymous.


  • Dr. Qiuyun (Jenny) Xiang
    North Carolina State University
  • Ning Zhang
  • Rhonda Ridley
    National Museum Northern Ireland
  • Steven R. Manchester
    Florida Museum of Natural History
  • Elizabeth Zimmer
    Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • Hong-Feng Chen
    South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Lei Duan
    South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Evangeline Ballerini
  • Stefanie M Ickert-Bond
    University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Allison Miller
    Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
  • Aaron Goldman
  • Chunmiao Feng
  • Jennifer Cruse-Sanders
    University of Georgia
  • Uma Bhatt
    University of Alaska
  • Rachel Jabaily
    Colorado College
  • Emily Austen
  • Michael P. Williams
  • Ingrid Jordon-Thaden
    University of Wisconsin Madison
  • Michael Vincent
    Miami University
  • Paul Manos
    Duke University
  • Sarah Allen
    Penn State Altoona
  • Heather Sharkey
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Pamela S. Soltis
    University of Florida
  • Ming Yang
    Oklahoma State University
  • Dustin Wolkis
    National Tropical Botanical Garden
  • Matt Olson
    Texas Tech University
  • Lisa Wallace
    Old Dominion University
  • Britany Morgan
  • Kitty LaBounty
  • Richard Hotel
  • Richard L Blanton
    North Carolina State University
  • Candace Haigler
    North Carolina State University
  • Thomas R. Wentworth
    North Carolina State University
  • Amy McPherson
    Botanical Society of America
  • Harlan Svoboda
    U.S. National Arbroetum
  • Kirk R. Johnson
    National Museum of Natural History
  • Morgan Gostel
  • Tongxin Ye
    Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Kristine Callis-Duehl
    Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
  • Xue-Jun Ge
    South China Botanical Garden
  • Holly Parkis
  • Aaron Liston
  • Emily Gillespie
  • Linda E. Watson
    Oklahoma State University
  • G. Karen Golinski
  • Susan Lutz-Morrissey
    Smithsonian Institution
  • Michael Palmer
  • Nathan Swenson
    University of Notre Dame
  • Peiwu Xie
  • Steven R. Manchester
  • Zhiqiong Lan
    Smithsonian institution
  • Veronica Di Stilio
    University of Washington
  • Wendy Boss
  • Michael Moore
  • Mark Fishbein
    Oklahoma State University
  • Nicole Parker
    Oklahoma State University
  • Rebecca S. Boston
  • Kathleen Pryer
  • Elizabeth Zimmer
    Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • Steven Karafit
    University of Central Arkansas
  • David F. Machuca
  • Gregory Stull
    Smithsonian Institution
  • Matthew G. Johnson
    Texas Tech University
  • Susanne S. Renner
    Washington University
  • Lucinda A. McDade
    California Botanic Garden
  • Juan Ortiz-Diaz
    Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
  • Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond
    University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Ryan Schmidt
  • Jun Wen
    Smithsonian Institution
  • Dr. Qiuyun (Jenny) Xiang
    North Carolina State University
  • Heather Cacanindin
    Botanical Society of America
  • 1 Anonymous Donor

*List of donors and funds collected will be updated daily