Department Awards, Announcements and News

July 15, 2011

Sarah Hake, Britt Glaunsinger, Tom Bruns and other achievements

Department of Plant & Microbial Biology Assistant Professor Britt Glaunsinger recently received two prestigious awards recognizing her outstanding contributions in research, teaching and service.
Glaunsinger was selected as the 2011 recipient of the Prytanean Faculty Award. The award, which comes with a financial grant of $25,000, goes to an outstanding woman junior faculty member who "has demonstrated scholarly achievement, a record as a distinguished teacher, and success as a role model for students at UC Berkeley.
She also received the College of Natural Resources Young Faculty / Cooperative Extension Specialist award honoring a young assistant professor or specialist for outstanding contributions in research, teaching and service/outreach.
Glaunsinger investigates the mechanisms by which y-herpes viruses promote global decay of cellular mRNAs during lytic infection and is especially interested in  possible interplay between the viral host shutoff factor(s) and cellular mRNA degradation machinery.

Sarah Hake, Distinguished Scientist

Molecular geneticist Sarah Hake has been named "Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of 2010" by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for her scientific leadership, research and seminal discoveries in plant biology that have had a major impact on plant developmental genetics. ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Adjunct Professor Hake is director of the Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, California, a unique collaboration of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the department of Plant & Microbial Biology.

"Dr. Hake's researchUSDA logo on plant genetic mechanisms is focused on one of the most important areas of agricultural research today, and her work has placed her among the top scientists in her field," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS administrator. "Her talent, skills and achievements have broadened our understanding of basic plant biology and helped address the challenges associated with producing enough food in a world where the climate is changing and populations are on the rise."

Hake's findings have shed light on how plants develop and have led to advances in areas ranging from agricultural production to evolution. She was the first scientist to clone a developmental gene by using a transposable element or "jumping gene" as a starting point. The gene identified was a type previously thought to exist only in animals, and functions as a master regulator of multiple pathways.

Hake's isolation of other genes has led to a body of knowledge on leaf and flower development in maize currently at the forefront of plant biology studies. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the winner in 2008 of the Hales Award, the most prestigious award given by the 5,000-member American Society of Plant Biologists.

Sheila McCormick, Fellow

Sheila McCormick has been recognized by the American Society of Plant Biologists as a Fellow. McCormick is widely recognized for her research on plant reproduction, including the bases of male and female gametophyte development, molecular basis of polarized pollen tube growth, and male–female interactions that underlie pollination and fertilization.

McCormick has served the Society extensively through her role as associate editor (2005 to present), focus issue editor, and monitoring editor of Plant Physiology and by serving on and chairing the Stephen Hales Prize Award Committee (2010–2012). McCormick’s commitment to improving science writing is also evident in the courses and workshops she has offered. 
McCormick also co-taught a pollen methods course at Brown Univ. June 8-12, as part of a NSF-funded Research Coordination Network on Pollen Biology. Fourteen students from 8 countries attended.

Tom Bruns, President of Mycological Society of America

Professor Tom Bruns is currently the President of theMushrooms Mycological Society of America and gave the Presidential Address on August 2, 2011 at the Society's Annual Meeting, which was held at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

For more information on the Society please visit


Sakis Theologis selected for 2010 Stephen Hales Prize

Dr. Athanasios (Sakis) Theologis was recognized for his sustained and outstanding contributions to plant science for more than 30 years. Until his recent retirement from active research, Sakis was an adjunct professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and a research scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service–UC Berkeley Plant Gene Expression Center.

Theologis established a superb record of professional service, including being a founding instructor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Arabidopsis summer course and a key member of a small group of scientists who imagined, developed, and led the multinational Arabidopsis Genome Initiative (AGI). His enthusiasm for science is evident and pervasive, and he has been a truly inspiring mentor and colleague to many plant biologists.

During his career, Sakis made fundamental discoveries relating to the physiology of fruit ripening, the mechanism and regulation of ethylene synthesis and action, and the molecular basis of auxin action. For example, he was the first to isolate the gene for ACC synthase, which catalyzes the rate-determining step in ethylene biosynthesis, and he was the first to clearly show that auxin rapidly stimulates transcription of specific genes. Those in the field acknowledge that Sakis's early work laid the foundation for our current detailed knowledge of auxin signaling. During the last part of his career, he was a pioneer in the effort to move plants into the genomics age.

Pat Zambryski Named Fellow

Professor Pat Zambryski has been named a 2010 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science.

Zambryski, a professor of Plant & Microbial Biology in the College of Natural Resources, was honored for distinguished contributions to the field of plant biology that focus on the genetic transformation of plant cells by Agrobacterium and on plant cell communication via plasmodesmata. The AAAS presented the new fellows with a gold and blue rosette pin and an official certificate on Feb. 19, 2011, at the society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
The society was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science serving 10 million individuals. The tradition of AAAS fellows, who are chosen by their peers, began in 1874.

N. Louise Glass Chosen as Miller Fellow

N. Louise Glass, an expert scientist in cell specialization, has been awarded a prestigious Miller Fellowship to further her research in the cost-effective production of biofuels. Glass, a professor in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, will use the award to initiate a new focus for the Glass lab that utilizes the lab’s experimental data and knowledge base to make further discoveries about plant cells and biofuel production.
In collaboration with a colleague at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Nathan Price, Glass will focus on developing tools to accelerate the use of plant biomass for biofuel production using a model organism for this process (the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa). Currently, the cost of producing enzymes from fungi that degrade plant cell biomass is a limiting factor in the development of marketable lignocellulosic biofuels.
This proposal is unique because it brings together the expertise of a fungal biologist (Glass) and a computational biologist (Price). In addition, they will be collaborating with colleagues in Seattle and Australia to significantly enrich the depth and understanding of the metabolic-regulatory network of plant cell wall deconstruction by Neurospora. Understanding how plant cell biomass is deconstructed will be essential for manipulation of these pathways in an industrial setting, and will be critical to achieving the goal of making biofuel production economically and logistically feasible.
The award will enable Glass to take a break from teaching and administrative duties at UC Berkeley for 6 months during the 2011-12 academic year to focus exclusively on this project.
Glass and her colleagues are heavily involved in research with EBI – the Energy Biosciences Institute - funded by UC Berkeley and British Petroleum in a unique joint venture. The Glass Lab utilizes a combination of molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, genomics and bioinformatics to investigate plant cell wall deconstruction. Glass also investigates other aspects of fungal biology, including cell specialization, communication and non-self recognition – all crucial signaling mechanisms in microbial organisms such as filamentous fungi.