Michael T. Clegg received his BS and PhD degrees in agricultural genetics respectively at the University of California, Davis. In 1972 he joined the faculty of Brown University moving from there to the University of Georgia in 1976. In 1984, he became Professor of Genetics at the University of California, Riverside. He also served as Dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UC Riverside from 1994 to 2000 and he was the founding Director of the Genomics Institute at UC Riverside, serving from 2000 to 2004. In 2004 he assumed his present position as Donald Bren Professor of Biology at the University of California, Irvine.
During an academic career of over 35 years Clegg has published more than 150 research articles and book chapters and he has authored or edited eight books. Clegg’s research specialty is population genetics and molecular evolution. His early work in population genetics focused on the dynamical behavior of linked system s of genes in plant and Drosophila populations. During this period, he also contributed to the theoretical study of multilocus systems employing computer simulations together with the analysis of mathematical models. Later, he helped pioneer the comparative analysis of chloroplast DNA variation as a tool for the reconstruction of plant phylogenesis. His current work is concerned with the comparative genomics of plant gene families, the molecular evolution of genes in the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway, the use of coalescent models to study crop plant domestication and the application of molecular markers to avocado improvement.
Clegg has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1981) and the Darwin Prize of Edinburgh University (1995). Clegg was elected t membership in the US National Academy of Sciences in 1990 and he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts in 2002 and reelected in 2006. He has also served as President of the American Genetic Association (1987), President of the International Society for Molecular Biology & Evolution (2002) and Chair of the Section on Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2003).