Wurdack, Kenneth J. (Active)
United States National Museum of Natural History
Plant systematics/Euphorbiaceae
Ken was born on January 15, 1965, in Washington, DC and grew up in the Washington Metropolitan area. His father, John J. Wurdack was a curator in the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian and a long-time member of Washington Biologists's Field Club (see his biography also at this site); his mother was trained as a plant physiologist. Ken grew up around the National Museum of Natural History community and had a broad curiosity in natural history. His budding interest in plants developed via his parents through exposure to botanists, horticulturists, and botanical fieldtrips, although he became seriously interested in botany from a scientific standpoint after high school. Ken was frequently brought by his father to the Washington Biologists' Field Club workdays during the 1970s and extensively explored Plummers Island. He was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland at College Park and in the fall of 1990 received a BS in biochemistry. In the spring of 1991 he entered graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a MS degree in 1994. He returned to graduate school at University of North Carolina in 1996 and received his PhD in 2002 on the molecular systematics of Euphorbiaceae. Toward the end of his graduate career (2000-2002) he also was laboratory manager of the Cullman Program for Molecular Systematic Studies at The New York Botanical Garden. In 2002 he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, which was followed by Visiting Scientist and Research Associate appointments. In 2005 Ken received an assistant curator appointment in the Department of Botany; he is currently an associate curator and continues to work on Euphorbiaceae and Malpighiales with an emphasis on molecular phylogenetic approaches. He has undertaken fieldwork in Guyana (4 major expeditions), Malaysia, Madagascar, USA, and Venezuela. Ken was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2007.