RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Susan R. Wessler, who holds a University of California President’s Chair and is a distinguished professor of genetics in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, has been named the recipient of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) 2012 Excellence in Science Award.
The award recognizes women whose outstanding career achievements in biological science have contributed significantly to further our understanding of a particular discipline by excellence in research. Wessler is internationally recognized for her work in plant genome structure and stability.
With more than 100,000 members, FASEB is the largest coalition of biomedical research association in the United States. Its mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences.
As part of the award, Wessler will receive a $10,000 research grant. She also will present an award lecture in 2012 at the Model Organisms to Human Biology Conference sponsored by the Genetics Society of America.
“Susan is the first person among plant scientists to receive what is one of the highest awards in science,” said Natasha Raikhel, the director of UC Riverside’s Institute for Integrative Biology, of which Wessler is a key member. “Her contributions to science, science teaching and to scientific society in general are enormous. We all are very proud of her.”
Wessler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In February 2011, she was elected home secretary of the NAS. She came to UC Riverside from the University of Georgia in 2010.
Wessler began her career at the University of Georgia in 1983 as an assistant professor of botany, rising through the ranks to full professor of botany and genetics in 1992. In 1994 she was awarded the title of Distinguished Research Professor which she held until 2004 when she was named a Regents Professor. In 2008 she was named the first University of Georgia Foundation Chair in the Biological Sciences. She moved her program to UC Riverside in August 2010. Her scientific interest focuses on the subject of plant transposable elements and the evolution of plant genomes.
In 2006 she was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professor and was awarded $1 million to implement her project which was to replicate her research laboratory as an undergraduate classroom. She is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of the Creative Research Medal (1991) and the Lamar Dodd Creative Research Award (1997) from the University of Georgia. In addition she was the first recipient of the Distinguished Scientist Award (2007) from the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA). She is on the Board of Directors of the Genetics Society of American and the Rosalind Franklin Society.
Wessler is co-author of The 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.