Two AgBio Scientists Named AAAS Fellows for Contributions in Plant Genetics and Genomics

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Two AgBio researchers were recognized for their ground-breaking research by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which named them AAS fellows in December.

Dean Della PennaDean Della Penna, MAES biochemistry and molecular biology scientist, and C. Robin Buell, MAES plant biology scientists, are among 486 AAAS members named as fellows this year.

Della Penna was honored for outstanding contributions in plant biochemical genetics and vitamin biosynthesis, and for leadership in altering crops to address micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries. Buell was named for distinguished contributions to plant and microbial genomics and genome biology, particularly in areas combining genome sequencing and computational biology.

Della Penna is an international authority on the biosynthesis of micronutrients in plants, doing pioneering research on vitamin A and vitamin E biosynthesis and using biochemistry, genetics and genomics to discover enzymes that plants use to make them. He also has led projects funded by international agencies and the Gates Foundation to improve the nutritional quality of rice, cassava and other foods in developing regions. His research also illuminates how vitamins contribute to the growth and stress tolerance of plants, which could lead to plants that thrive in substandard environments.C. Robin Buell

“What interests me in the research is that it is an opportunity to perform cutting-edge research on important areas of plant biochemistry/biology and has the potential to positively impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” Della Penna explained.

“I was surprised,” Buell said.

Recognized for her work with rice genomics, Buell has been at MSU for only a year, setting up her lab and starting new research projects on the Solanaceae family,which includes potatoes and tomatoes.

Buell sees herself as a translator between technology and biology, sequencing genes, analyzing them and developing genomic data bases for access by other researchers.

Della Penna, Buell and other new AAAS fellows will be recognized Feb. 14 during the 2009 AAAS annual meeting in Chicago. DellaPenna is a presenter at the annual meeting and will discuss his research on crop biofortification on Feb. 13.

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