Jim Cornette graduated from Canyon High School in 1952 and received a BS degree in mathematics at West Texas State College in 1955. He studied mathematics at the University of Texas and received an MA in 1959 and a PhD in 1962. He was a member of the Department of Mathematics at Iowa State University (ISU) from 1962 until retirement in 2000. While there he directed or co-directed the PhD work of four students in topology and three students in computational biology, taught the usual range of mathematics courses,w as named an ISU Outstanding Teacher in 1973, and served on department, college, and university committees.
Jim's excursions outside the department were very reawarding. He taught a course in field theory in a faculty exchange with Electircal Engineering, he was a Fulbright Lecturer at University Kebangsaan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for an academic year, and he worked for two years at the Laboratory of Mathematical Biology in the National Cancer Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. After returning from Malaysia in 1974 he was advisor to the 300 student Association of Malaysian Students at ISU until he to went to NIH in 1985. At NIH he developed a very productive collaboration working on sequence analysis and structure of immune system proteins that resulted in 21 publications and three patents over an eleven-year period. This experience enabled his participation in the creation of active groups in bioinformatics and computation biology on the Iowa State campus which has led to strong graduate and undergraduate program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. He was the first director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics at ISU for a brief period before retirement. In 1998 Jim was named ISU University Professor, a distinction awarded to outstanding faculty who acted as a change agent to improve the quality with which the university carries out its land-grant mission.
After retirement in 2000 he studied paleontology at the University of Kansas and received an MS in Geology (Paleontology) in 2002. He has published three papers in paleontology and now volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, working both in the field and in the laboratory.
Jim and Carolyn Christian of Claude were married in 1962 and have two children: James Terrill live with his family in Temple and Frances Elizabeth lives with her family in Boone, Iowa.