INVASION OR PRIVACY: Professor George Briggs plants passion in greenhouse, students

For the past 21 years, biology professor George Briggs has been dedicating his time and interests to better help Geneseo students and plants alike.

Originally from Damariscotta, Maine, Briggs attended Dartmouth for his undergraduate degree. He became interested in plants to avoid pre-med students at Dartmouth.

"They were obsessed with grades and not with learning," recalled Briggs.

Upon graduating from Dartmouth with a biology degree, Briggs attended Utah State University where he obtained a master's in ecology and a Ph.D. in plant physiology.

After his finished his schooling, Briggs ventured into a series of temporary jobs and post-ops, including teaching biology in Vermont, Montana and Michigan. When the opportunity presented itself to come to Geneseo, Briggs capitalized on it and chose Geneseo over many other schools.

There are many aspects to Geneseo that Briggs loves, including the environment.

"The area is pretty, it has outstanding terrain for bicycling, and there is snow to ski," said Briggs. "I also love the rural nature of the area, the Finger Lakes, terrain and back roads. I [also] roller-ski when I don't have snow."

Briggs is in command of the college's greenhouse that is connected to Newton Hall. There, he is currently growing tobacco plants, which he is using in his classes for tissue culture.

"It's a variety that discourages an insect pest, whiteflies," said Briggs. "They smell great in the early morning. Tobacco in bloom has a marvelous smell."

In the future, Briggs would like to expand the greenhouse and increase its usage, both by students and community members.

"I want to get the whole community to use it as a place to learn about plants," said Briggs.

Additionally, he is designing a Web site where he talks about botanical phenomena and plants that are in the greenhouse.

"I'm all about plants," he added.

In addition to heading the greenhouse, Briggs is chair of the Pre-Med Advisory Committee and he recently became chair of the biology department.

Briggs is currently conducting research with students on allelopathy, which is defined as how a plant uses chemicals to suppress growth of other plants surrounding it.

"The students are looking into the chemical interaction in plants," he said. "We are finding what the chemical is and how it works."

Every fall, Briggs teaches a plant taxonomy class which includes a trip to the Adirondack Mountains.

"I probably have taken 15 classes up there. We climb Mt. Algonquin, the second highest peak in the Adirondacks, to view the vegetation on top of the mountain," he said. "It is a real treat because of the plants - there are no trees and the plants that are there are also found in treeless areas of northern Canada, Greenland and Siberia," said Briggs.

As part of a camping trip, Briggs has also taken classes to Utah twice.

As an avid donator, Briggs has been raising money for the American Diabetes Association for the "Tour de Cure" program and for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as part of the "MS 150" program for 20 years.

Briggs said he's close to, if not over, $10,000 in gifts. Part of that is thanks to help from students, and he said anyone interested in helping him can Google "Tour de Cure" to find out how.

Briggs expressed a desire to share his enthusiasm and encouraged students to, "enjoy the outside [and] look at the world around you."