Professors Braun and Pires Elected Fellows of the AAAS
Nov. 20, 2017
David Braun and J. Chris Pires, professors of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science, have been awarded the distinction of Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of their distinguished contributions to our understanding of plant biology.
Election as a fellow of the AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science. Braun and Pires will be honored at the 2018 AAAS meeting on 17 February in Austin, Texas, where they will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin.
Braun, who is director of MU’s Missouri Maize Center, was elected for “distinguished contributions to the field of plant genetics, particularly in the area of carbohydrate transport and partitioning in crops.” Carbon partitioning is the process by which sugars produced in the leaves via photosynthesis are loaded into the phloem and transported long distance through the veins to the rest of the plant. Using a combination of genetic and molecular biology techniques and working in both corn and sorghum, Braun has identified many genes that play a role in the export of sugar out of the leaves and has determined the biological functions of other genes involved in phloem loading. His research also led to the discovery of the genes likely responsible for sugar accumulation in sweet sorghum stems, thus shedding light on the molecular mechanisms that differentiate sweet sorghum from grain sorghum. The research has significant practical applications for food security and energy production.
Pires was elected for “distinguished contributions to the fields of plant systematics and evolution, particularly for the study of genome evolution and consequences of polyploidy.” Polyploidy – the heritable acquisition of extra chromosomes sets – has long been thought to lead to rapid speciation, and many crop species have polyploidy in their ancestry. Pires, who is an investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center and a member of the MU Informatics Institute, has used phylogenetic and genomic data to show the origin of novel traits in the Brassica genus. He co-led an international team that compared the lineage of cabbage plants and cabbage butterflies and proved an evolutionary arms race resulted in species diversification. He also has contributed significantly to sequencing the genomes of several Brassica species, including turnips, kale, canola, and their wild relatives. His research findings are important to basic and applied science, ranging from understanding biodiversity to improving crops.
Pires and Braun also are members of MU’s Interdisciplinary Plant Group.
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