Pioneer Member

Bob Buchanan


Barbara Alonso
Robert Calderon
Myeong-Je Cho
Jeff Dahlberg
Greg del Val
Wilhelm Gruissem
Thomas Kleist
Peggy Lemaux
Steven Lindow
Sheng Luan
Alizée Malnoë
Anastasios Melis
Sabeeha Merchant
Krishna Niyogi
Peter Quail
Jianqiang Shen
Jaswinder Singh
Chris & Shauna Somerville
Joshua Wong
Patricia Zambryski

Anonymous Donor

Robert Calderon – Bob made my time as a graduate student exponentially more fun and meaningful than it would have been without him. The fact that a titan in the field (he literally helped write the book on the molecular biology and biochemistry of plants!) could be so approachable, down-to-earth and generous with his time was so reassuring to me as a young scientist. Bob taught me that you can be an excellent scientist while also admitting you don’t know things. He taught me that, for better or for worse, there are always humans behind the science we read in publications or in textbooks. Each time Bob started a sentence with “If I may add something…” or “That reminds me…”, I knew I’d be in for a brief history lesson that would humanize science and link me to the scientists who came before me. I generally don’t think we should speak for others, but I am certain that I am not the only young scientist who felt this way because of Bob. Bob deeply deserves this award and I am so happy to get to play a small part in thanking him for all he has done for plant science and for plant scientists. Thanks Bob

Myeong-Je Cho – During my decade-long collaboration with Dr. Bob Buchanan, as both a postdoctoral researcher and a research specialist in Dr. Peggy Lemaux’s lab, our focus on innovative thioredoxin-h projects in barley and other cereal crops proved truly transformative. As my co-supervisor, Dr. Buchanan’s mentorship extended beyond scientific insights, reflecting exceptional leadership and thoughtfulness. Notably, other principal investigators sought his counsel, highlighting his esteemed guidance. His unwavering enthusiasm for thioredoxin studies in plants, coupled with genuine joy in every research finding, defined him as an extraordinary mentor. Dr. Buchanan’s impact on our scientific journey is profound. As a pioneer in plant biology, he indelibly shaped our collaborative efforts, making our work both memorable and impactful. It has been an honor to contribute to the field alongside such a visionary mentor, and I am grateful for the invaluable experiences gained throughout our collaboration.

Jeff Dahlberg – Bob’s work opened new avenues of understanding regarding how plants work. His contributions led to discoveries in photosynthesis and seed viability, and this work will continue to be cited in relationship to new research discoveries.

Greg del Val – Professor Buchanan has been a key mentor for me and many other scientists. He discovered the essential regulation of key photosynthetic enzymes by light through the thioredoxin system and, later, in seeds. Thioredoxin plays a key role in the signal for seed germination. He was one the few who applied these findings to very different fields, such as allergies, by demonstrating the potential of using thioredoxin for food allergens, which renders them hypoallergenic and hyperdigestible. Finally, he is a unique human being. His great personality, full of enthusiasm, generosity, trust and empathy, was the trigger for successful international collaborations and scientist emancipations. I still recall when I left his lab as a post-doctoral fellow, and he asked me what I learned. I said without hesitation “you thought me how to think”. I cannot thank you enough Bob!

Wilhelm Gruissem – Bob Buchanan is a true pioneer and inspirational scientist with an impressive record of achievements in microbiology, photosynthesis, and plant biochemistry. When I began my career as Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley in 1984 Bob had been an active researcher on campus for 22 years. By that time and together with Dan Arnon, Bob had already discovered the importance of ferredoxin in fixing carbon dioxide and synthesizing acetyl-CoA and pyruvate in anaerobic environments, which is now known as the Arnon-Buchanan cycle. Later his focus shifted to thioredoxin, an important redox regulator of ferredoxin and enzymes. I remember the many discussions we had about thioredoxin, and the endless applications and commercial opportunities Bob envisioned for his favorite molecule. We became close friends during these years, and I was always thankful for Bob’s advice, especially how to deal with our faculty colleagues during my time as Department Chair. He also convinced me that it was time for a new plant biochemistry textbook. Together with Russell Jones and support from ASPB we took up the epic challenge to publish ‘Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants’, which has become the staple of plant biology students around the world. Although Bob has now retired from UC Berkeley after working more than 50 years on campus, he leaves behind an enduring legacy of excellent pioneering research.

Peggy G. Lemaux – Bob was the best thing that happened to me after accepting the position in the Plant and Microbial Biology Department at UCB.  I remember going to a departmental lecture by Bob on, of course, thioredoxin.  I was blown away thinking of all of the possibilities for pursuing that protein’s magical properties, using my laboratory’s abilities to do genetic engineering.  And so, our  thioredoxin journey began!  Bob always treated me as an equal partner, and I loved passing by his office on the way to mine and talking about our latest ideas.  If it had not been for Bob, I don’t think I would have stayed at UCB.  But his friendship and inspiration are something I will always cherish!  Thanks Bob!

Steven Lindow – I am pleased that you are being recognized for your many seminal contributions to the field. It is humbling to consider the many different findings you have made that have re-directed the field of photosynthesis.

Sheng Luan – Bob served as my mentor upon my arrival as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley. His guidance extended beyond navigating the university’s landscape; together, we delved deeply into the realm of the immunophilins, whcih are enigmatic proteins abundant within the chloroplast. Bob’s commitment to scientific inquiry and his meticulous approach to data analysis and manuscript preparation left an indelible mark on my career, shaping my dedication to excellence.

Alizée Malnoë – Bob’s kindness and generosity have been and continue to be sources of inspiration to me. His storytelling is unsurpassed, making the research and education endeavor full of laughter. Some things he said I’ll always remember and tell my students: even an experienced professor like him gets nervous before giving a talk, and his quip: “dogmas don’t disappear people die”! If you haven’t done so, please take a look here and watch his interview with Andrew Benson: and make sure to use “carbon reactions” not dark reactions to describe photosynthetic carbon fixation:

Sabeeha Merchant – Thank you Bob for being super supportive throughout my career and a wonderful mentor. Thank you also for your warmth and support as a colleague at Cal.

Peter Quail – Bob was instrumental in establishing the Plant Gene Expression Center (PGEC), as a collaborative Research Center between USDA/ARS and UC Berkeley. In particular, he played a pivotal role in assembling the formal agreement between the two institutions enabling the ARS/PGEC PI’s to join the faculty in the Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) department on campus, as Adjunct Appointees. This was critical in establishing the integrated plant/microbial biology community that has benefited both ARS and UC Berkeley. In addition, at the personal level, Bob has always been a wonderful, supportive colleague for many years.

Jianqiang Shen – Bob played a important role in shaping my journey to becoming a plant science researcher. Having extensively studied the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants during my PhD, I’ve always admired the book’s presentation of current knowledge and its well-organized format. Since relocating to Berkeley, the insightful conversations I’ve had with Bob have been truly inspiring. In addition, as a Buchanan lecture host, I’ve gained even more appreciation for his contributions to the field of plant biology. I am pleased to support this recognition as he is certainly deserving.

Jaswinder Singh – I am incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Buchanan. Through our collaboration, I have gained valuable insights into various aspects of science. Dr. Buchanan has played a pivotal role in reshaping my understanding of genomics and proteomics, particularly within the context of redox biology. His mentorship has had a profound impact on my scientific and academic development.

Chris and Shauna Somerville – We never collaborated with Bob, but followed his work from the time we were postdocs and were inspired by his gracious and enthusiastic approach to scientific discovery and the applications thereof.

Patricia ZambryskiWhen I was hired in 1986, Bob Buchanan was Chair of a new division of the Plant Pathology Department at UC Berkeley, called Molecular Plant Biology. He became a mentor and friend from that time forward, available to chat about departmental or scientific pursuits anytime. His door was always open; no need to make an appointment. Bob was extremely supportive of women faculty so that women now represent nearly 40 % of faculty in our department. Bob was instrumental in the reorganization of a new larger Plant Biology department in the late 1980s, and expanding it to support microbiology research, with another renaming of our department as Plant and Microbial Biology. As of 2023, Bob has been a professor (now Emeritus) of UC Berkeley for 60 years. His scientific accomplishments are too many to enumerate and are extremely deserving of this ASPB Pioneer recognition. Bob’s scientific achievements are mirrored in abundance by his deep commitment and heartfelt support to young scientists and colleagues at UC Berkeley and around the globe. Thank you, Bob!