Martin Gibbs Medal

The Martin Gibbs Medal was instituted by the Society’s executive committee in 1993 to honor Martin Gibbs, editor of Plant Physiology from 1963 to 1992. The Gibbs Medal is presented biennially to an individual who has pioneered advances that have served to establish new directions of investigation in the plant sciences. The winner will receive the medal and will be invited to convene a Martin Gibbs Medal Symposium at the annual meeting the following year.

2019 Winner: Rob Martienssen

Robert A. Martienssen (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) is awarded the 2019 Gibbs Medal for his groundbreaking research on the role of small RNAs in chromatin and DNA modifications, heterochromatin formation, transposable element control and developmental processes. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1986 from the University of Cambridge, UK, Rob spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, before moving to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as Assistant Professor in 1989. He was promoted to Full Professor in 1996. Rob has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (HHMI-GBMF) Investigator in Plant Biology since 2012. Rob’s research has transformed our thinking about the role of small RNAs in plants and beyond. His work has laid the foundation in many areas of epigenetics involving the functions of small RNAs, the establishment of heterochromatin, the control of replication, the modification of histones, the control and inheritance of transposable elements, the establishment of DNA methylation and the roles of small RNAs in plant development. Many of his publications are viewed as “classics”. Two examples are his discovery that RNAi was responsible for heterochromatic silencing and methylation of histone H3, a paper that was heralded by Science Magazine as the “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2002, and his discovery of the DDM1 mutation in Arabidopsis that affected the DNA methylation status of multiple areas of the genome. Furthermore, Rob has successfully applied aspects of this work in the areas of leaf development and floral architecture in maize, and oil yield and heterosis in oil palm. Because of the consistently high impact of his contributions to plant science, Rob is a most deserving recipient of the Martin Gibbs Medal, which honors “an individual who has pioneered advances that have served to establish new directions of investigation in the plant sciences”.

Richard Dixon, Chair (2018-2021)
Rob Martienssen, Past Winner (2020-2021)
Maureen McCann (2018-2021)
Sue Rhee (2018-2021)
Sylvia Lee, Staff Liaison