By Lynne Friedmann
Salk Institute molecular biologist Joanne Chory, Ph.D., an expert on how plants regulate their growth, has been named a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (UK), the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. She is being recognized as a “beacon of scientific excellence and relentless ambassador for plant research in the international community.”
Chory, a professor in the Institute’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, pioneered the analysis of plant responses to their environment using a molecular genetic approach in the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family, that is easy to grow, prolific, and has the smallest genome of any flowering plant.
Her laboratory has led the plant field for 20 years, making major discoveries in how plants grow and develop.
“Nobody is more deserving of this honor than Joanne” said Salk president William R. Brody, M.D., Ph.D., in a news release. “Her research may eventually enable researchers to develop plants that are particularly well adapted to challenging environments, boosting the yields of agricultural crops, a critical issue considering the millions of people worldwide suffering from hunger and malnutrition.”
The same week the Royal Society honored Chory, the journal Current Biology published the latest finding from her lab: The discovery of a signaling factor sent by plant chloroplasts to turn on photosynthesis-related genes - a critical step as a sprout depletes the energy stored within its seed that supports initial growth. Once that resource is exhausted, the plant cell nucleus must be ready to switch to photosynthesis so that the plant can continue to grow and thrive by generating its own energy using light. News release at http://bit.ly/mOpQzp.
The Royal Society, founded in 1660, is a fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists. Fellows and Foreign Members, who are elected for life on the basis of scientific excellence, have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking.
Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.