Benning named director of MSU/DOE Plant Research Laboratory

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Christoph Benning, the new director of the MSU/DOE Plant Research Laboratory (view larger image)

Christoph Benning, Michigan State University professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, will become the director of the Michigan State University/ U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Plant Research Laboratory (PRL) beginning Aug. 16. He succeeds Michael Thomashow, University Distinguished Professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences, and microbiology and molecular genetics. Thomashow has led the lab for the past nine years. 

“Professor Benning is a distinguished plant biochemist with a strong record of disciplinary contributions,” said R. James Kirkpatrick, College of Natural Science (NatSci) dean. “I am looking forward to working with him to continue to build on the extraordinary legacy of the PRL and the plant sciences at MSU. I also want to thank Professor Thomashow for his outstanding leadership of the PRL. The laboratory continues to thrive in large measure due to his leadership in hiring outstanding faculty and redirecting the lab’s research as the scientific focus of the DOE changed.”

Benning is one of the world’s foremost experts in plant lipid metabolism. He led a collaborative effort with colleagues from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center that resulted in a significant early step toward producing better plants for biofuels.  He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2014 and was recently named an MSU Foundation Professor in recognition of his exceptional contributions to research and instruction.

“Taking up the responsibilities as director of the PRL represents a great opportunity for me to be actively engaged in moving plant sciences at MSU forward,” said Benning, who is also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “My experiences as a graduate student in the PRL during the 1980s and as a non-PRL MSU faculty member in recent years are providing me with a unique perspective in meeting current challenges and developing new initiatives in the plant sciences. I am looking forward to working together with all members of the MSU community to accomplish our common goals in pursuing cutting-edge plant science and training in the relevant disciplines.”

The MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory brings together experimental biologists to foster the development of cooperative research programs involving multidisciplinary approaches. The PRL is dedicated to answering fundamental questions in plant biology with the goal of providing a broad and thorough scientific education in modern plant biology. The PRL is affiliated with the MSU College of Natural Science and seven MSU departments on campus through joint appointments of its faculty.

This year marks 50 years since the lab was founded; an anniversary celebration is planned for Oct. 16-18.

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