Testimonials for Pioneer Member Dean DellaPenna

Yan Bao – Dean earned his reputation after years of pioneering research in plant biochemistry, and he is well known for dissecting the tocopherol or Vitamin E biosynthesis pathway. Now, he is leading a group of great scientists to explore the vitamin world in maize using Multi-Omics for better balancing the human diet. During my four years as a postdoc working with him, I became impressed by his knowledge, wisdom, leadership and strong scientific ethics in doing science. Dean has been very supportive, especially at a time I really needed it, and he still shows his consistent support even after I left for my tenure-track appointment. I am lucky to have my training in the DellaPenna lab. He is well deserving to be an ASPB Pioneer!

David Braun – Dean is an exceptional colleague and collaborator. I am profoundly grateful for his help in completing measurements of tocopherols, and for his continuing friendship and support. I always enjoy interacting with him and think he is a superb scientist. His research deciphering the tocopherol biosynthetic pathway and connections to cell wall structure and the impacts on phloem loading are foundational. Additionally, his research into identifying natural variation in bioavailable vitamin E and other nutrients are a tremendous benefit to human health and nutrition. Maybe if I play my cards right, one day he’ll take me fishing for salmon in Alaska!!! Dean, congratulations on this tremendous recognition. You are a Pioneer, and I thank you for all you have done to enhance our understanding of plant biology and for being a model scientist and mentor. Best wishes and cheers, David Braun

Brad Day – Dean DellaPenna has worked tirelessly during his academic career to promote the advancement of knowledge, the application of plant science research on sustainability, and importantly, as a mentor and advisor to countless students and faculty. At MSU, Dean has left his impact not only in the broad discipline of plant biochemistry, but he has also dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to curriculum and student-based activities. As a pioneer in plant science research and education, Dean’s hard work and service exemplify the mission of APSB – to broaden education and research and innovations so that we ensure a safe, healthy, and sustainable future for generations to come. Well done, Dean!

James Giovannoni – A phenomenal biochemist, a wonderful teacher and mentor, an accomplished fisherman and a dear friend. To know Dean in any of these arenas is a gift. To know him in all is a treasure.

Michael Gore and family – It is with tremendous pleasure that I write a testimonial about how Dean DellaPenna, a true Pioneer in the areas of plant biochemistry and metabolism, has impacted my life and career. I first met Dean when I was a PhD student at Cornell, having read many of his papers I was beyond excited to finally talk with him about the biosynthesis and regulation of tocochromanols in plants. Soon thereafter I found myself writing an NSF PGRP proposal (the first of two) with him on elucidating the genetics of natural variation for tocochromanols and carotenoids in maize grain. Spending hours with him writing the proposal, I was in awe of his thoughtful approach to science and commitment to bettering the nutritional quality of foods. I delighted in every scientific conversation with Dean, as the data download for me was equivalent to reading three to four Plant Cell papers. The more I talked to Dean the more I better understood about how to ask important biological questions and design experiments for enhancing our mechanistic understanding of plant metabolism. Dean quickly became a key mentor for me, and that continues to this day. His patience, understanding, and insights are without compare. I have consulted Dean on every major career decision since graduate school and still talk frequently with him about how to shape my scientific vision and priorities for the coming years. I sincerely thank Dean for all the time and scientific knowledge that he has shared with me. However, it is truly his friendship and advice over the years that has helped me through both good and bad times. Thank you for everything, Dean

Charles Hunter – Dean has been an incredible force for advancing the research on plant metabolism and vitamin biosynthesis. He has also been a strong advocate for early career scientists, students, and post-docs, helping many of us become established in a competitive research field. As is evidenced by his many collaborative grants and co-authored studies, he is extremely generous with his time and expertise in supporting and promoting the research of others.

SungSoo Kim – Dean is a great mentor. He was willing to share his expert knowledge and experience with me while I worked in his lab as a Postdoc. I respect his energetic and enthusiastic exploration of plant biology.

Vonny Salim – Working as a postdoctoral researcher in Dean’s lab was very rewarding. Dean was a delightful and inspiring mentor. He always encouraged me to think effectively as a plant biologist. Dean really cares about his lab members as he nurtures young minds to succeed. His creativity in experimental designs to solve important problems in plant biology has always impressed me. Every piece of his wisdom and advice enriches my views on how to make a huge impact for the scientific community.

David Shintani and Christie Howard – Dean Della Penna is one of those larger than life characters who I was immediately drawn to as a newly graduated PhD. I was infected by his energy and enthusiasm for science and knew that I wanted to post-doc in his lab. With Dean, science was like a competitive sport where each success was celebrated like a touchdown. When we fumbled he would pick us up, dust us off, and send us back in to try again. He was the coach and we were his team. For me, Dean was the ideal post-doc mentor. He directed my research from a distance, allowing me to choose my own direction and mature as a scientist. He praised me when I succeeded, but was not shy to correct me when I needed it. Dean also trained me to be a PI, providing me many opportunities beyond the bench that were essential to my success as a university faculty member. This is what every post-doc advisor is supposed to do, but from discussions with my peers, Dean was truly exceptional. Dean was also a great friend. He taught me to balance my job with my life. There were several times when I was becoming too wrapped up in work and the stress was getting to me. On those occasions, Dean grabbed me and forced me to go fishing or play a round of golf. He let me know that it was OK to take a break and have a life beyond the lab. There are times today that I wish Dean was around to help me put things into perspective. Dean Della Penna is an amazing role model and a great friend. He is responsible in no small part for my success in academia. Dean is truly deserving of being recognized as an ASPB Pioneer.

Shin-Han Shiu – Dr. Dean DellaPenna has been a great colleague and a mentor since I became a faculty member at Michigan State University. He is an internationally recognized plant scientist with a prolific research program on integrating omics technologies with genetics and biochemistry that tackles important problems interfacing plant biochemistry and human health. On our campus, Dean plays a pivotal role advocating for investment in plant science research and education. He is also leading the effort to create a new graduate program in Molecular Plant Sciences. At a personal level, Dean has been a great mentor for me in guiding the early phase of my development in grantsmanship, research foci, and mentoring practices. To this day, I continue to benefit from his presence as a colleague due to the rigor of his research and his extensive experience.

Li Tian – Dr. DellaPenna is a role model for research excellence, creativity, and productivity. He provides intellectual guidance and a supportive environment to ensure the success of his mentees. It is truly an honor and a privilege to have been mentored by Dr. DellaPenna.

Ruth Welti – Dean is the ultimate in enthusiastic and encouraging support for his colleagues!

John E. Wilson – I had the pleasure of being a colleague of Dean’s for several years. Though our research areas were quite different, I recognized the exceptional contributions that he made to plant biology. Aside from our professional interactions, I enjoyed our many outings on the golf course. Fortunately for the plant sciences, he was a much better researcher than he was a golfer.