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Researchers receive high honor from American Society of Plant Biologists

UC Riverside's Natasha Raikhel and Susan Wessler are recognized for their contributions to the field of plant biology

University of California - Riverside


IMAGE: Natasha Raikhel, University of California, Riverside, is a distinguished professor of plant cell biology. view more

Credit: L. Duka.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Two scientists at the University of California, Riverside have received high recognition from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) for their contributions to the field of plant biology.

Natasha Raikhel, a distinguished professor of plant cell biology, has been named the recipient of the Adolph E. Gude, Jr. Award, granted every three years in recognition of outstanding service to plant biology. Susan Wessler, a distinguished professor of genetics, has been named a fellow of the ASPB, granted in recognition of distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology and service to the society.

Raikhel is being recognized for her scientific contributions to the field of protein trafficking, including work on the vacuole, cell wall biosynthesis, nuclear import signaling, and lectins. She is a world-class expert in the area of secretory trafficking, explaining the key role of the vacuole and its numerous functions essential for plant survival. Her work ranges over the broad areas of plant biochemistry and plant cell biology, her discoveries in these realms being extremely relevant to plant growth and development.

Raikhel received the award also for building a strong and innovative group of plant biologists at UC Riverside and for her service to the plant community. She has served on numerous advisory and editorial boards and was editor-in-chief of the journal Plant Physiology from 2000 to 2005, transforming it into a flagship journal in plant biology.

At UCR, she holds the Ernst and Helen Leibacher Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular, Cell Biology & Genetics. The founding director of UCR's Center for Plant Cell Biology and the current director of the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, Raikhel was instrumental in establishing a state-of-the-art research infrastructure that serves the entire campus, including plant biology labs.

Early in her career, she recognized the importance of the genomic revolution to biology and pioneered the use of chemical genomics, which uses simple chemicals to alter the functions of specific proteins without killing the plant, to advance our knowledge of plant processes. This information, in turn, can be used towards increased crop production, disease resistance and better adaptation to threatening environmental changes.

Her lab is actively harnessing the high-throughput capacity of new multidisciplinary methods, such as computational biology, and advanced imaging, genome sequencing and protein identification technologies, to integrate molecular information into a more comprehensive "systems biology" approach to studying organisms.

Her numerous distinguished awards include election as a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Women in Cell Biology Senior Award from the American Society for Cell Biology, the ASPB Stephen Hales Prize, a Senior Fellowship from the Japan Society for Promotion of Science and being named an ASPB Fellow.

She came to UCR in 2001 from Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Wessler is being recognized for her pioneering work involving the identification and study of plant transposable elements and the roles of these elements in shaping genomes.

She holds a University of California President's Chair and is a member of the NAS and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2011, she was elected home secretary of the NAS, received the ASPB Stephen Hale Prize and was named the recipient of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2012 Excellence in Science Award.

In August 2010, she moved her research program from the University of Georgia to UCR. Four years earlier, she was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and awarded $1 million to implement her project which was to replicate her research laboratory as an undergraduate classroom.

She is the recipient of the Creative Research Medal and the Lamar Dodd Creative Research Award from the University of Georgia. In addition she was the first recipient of the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Southeastern Universities Research Association. She is on the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of America and the Rosalind Franklin Society.

Wessler is co-author of Mutants of Maize (Cold Spring Harbor Press) and of more than 120 research articles. She is one of the principal authors of Introduction to Genetic Analysis, a leading textbook used in introductory genetics courses in colleges and universities throughout the world. In addition, she is an associate editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is on the editorial board of Current Opinions in Plant Biology and on the Board of Reviewing Editors of the journal Science.

Wessler is the fourth UCR faculty member to be named an ASPB Fellow. The others are Raikhel, Julia Bailey-Serres and Linda Walling.

The ASPB Fellow award was established in 2007. Award recipients comprise 0.2 percent of the society's current membership each year.


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