Pioneer Member

Natalia Dudareva


Joe Chappell
Jonathan Gershenzon
Hiroshi Maeda
Amy Marshall-Colon
Dinesh Nagegowda
Reuben Peters
Dorothea Tholl
Jing-Ke Weng
Josh Widhalm

Anonymous Donors

Joe Chappell – Dr. Dudareva has been and continues to be a pioneer researcher and inspirational mentor to the entire ASPB community. Without a doubt, her steadfast focus on essential biochemical processes in plants has opened our eyes to the world of fragrances that have significance for the foods we eat to the amazing bouquets of smells that evoke our mental acuity. Her allegiance to her students, co-workers, colleagues and friends has equally served to distinguish her. As a contemporary of Dr. Dudareva, she has never wavered to extend a helping hand to me or to anyone else in our community. Dr. Dudareva richly deserves to be honored as an ASPB Pioneer.

Jonathan Gershenzon – Natalia Dudareva has made the field of floral scent biochemistry bloom by deducing the biosynthetic pathways to many different floral volatiles and characterizing a host of intermediates, enzymes and genes along the way. With her brilliance, uncommon persistence and embrace of clever genetic, gene discovery and flux modeling approaches, she has made many unexpected discoveries in how floral volatiles are formed. Even in the later stages of her career, she has shown no signs of senescence. Her latest work describing the machinery regulating release of floral volatiles into the atmosphere may rank among her most exciting contributions to date.

Hiroshi Maeda – I am so grateful to Natalia for her supportive mentorship, continuous encouragement, and rigorous scientific training, all of which have significantly shaped my personal development and scientific career. During my postdoctoral training in Dudareva’s lab at Purdue University, I had invaluable opportunities to acquire a variety of scientific skills in plant metabolism research, which form the foundation of my current research program. Additionally, I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with Natalia on writing several manuscripts and grants in her office. Whenever something is not clear, she would spend hours discussing alternative possibilities, evaluating them through additional readings, thinking, and experiments until the overall logic made sense. These experiences inspired deep and critical thinking and taught me the joy and excitement of scientific exploration. As an international postdoc, I wasn’t entirely certain if I could thrive and excel in the US academic environment, but Natalia’s training and encouragement gave me the confidence that rigorous and high-quality science will pave the way forward. Thank you so much, Natalia, for all your support over the years.

Amy Marshall-Colon – Dr. Dudareva is an exceptional graduate mentor who deserves recognition for providing holistic training to her graduate students and postdocs. She trains students in research, scholarship, grantsmanship, and communication, and encourages students to find a work-life balance. This unique training environment poises mentees for a productive and balanced career. She is a world renowned scientist who has made groundbreaking discoveries in plant secondary metabolism. She is the first to admit that her decades of success have been supported by her evolving team of students and postdocs. Under Dr. Dudareva’s guidance I learned how to become a rigorous scientist. She stringently follows the scientific method and teaches her students how to ask important biological questions, formulate testable hypotheses, perform appropriate experiments, and thoroughly analyze their data before reporting the findings. She has a contagious passion for science. Some of my favorite moments in Dr. Dudareva’s lab were when I would present my results to her and she would get so excited; it was the equivalent of the joy a coach has when their team successfully executes a play. By participating in the thrill of a scientific discovery with Dr. Dudareva, I found my own passion for science and stayed on the academic track for my career, where I am now an Associate Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Natalia did a number of other things to help me become an independent researcher. She invited me to fully participate in the development of scientific manuscripts, she regularly took me to scientific conferences, and she allowed me to participate in grant writing. All graduate students struggle with scientific writing and need guidance and practice to improve. The greatest thing Natalia did for my career was to coach me, one-on-one, writing every single manuscript for my projects. We would sit together at her computer for hours going over the figures illustrating our results and crafting the narrative. Make no mistake, this was painful and unappreciated at the time, but I learned how to interpret data and how to communicate it effectively to a broad readership. This training has stayed with me, and I try to put as much care and thought into my research as Natalia does, and I believe this is evident with the number of high-level publications I have authored since my time with her. Natalia’s personalized coaching demonstrates her strong commitment to her students’ success.

In addition to writing scientific manuscripts, Natalia provided unique training in grant writing. She has been highly successful in obtaining millions of dollars of funding to support her research, and she generously shares her skill and knowledge with her mentees. Natalia wrote all of the grants herself, but she would use the grant writing time as another training opportunity for her students and postdocs. I had the opportunity to provide preliminary data for some grants and Natalia would show me how it strengthened the proposal. She would also ask for feedback on proposed methods to make sure they were doable. Through these interactions I was trained on how a grant proposal comes together and the important components and structure for the different funding agencies. Importantly, Natalia would make sure that anyone reading the proposal would understand how the research would make a broader impact. This experience laid the foundation for my own grantsmanship, and today I have received over $6 million dollars in grants as lead PI and over $175 million as co-PI in center grants.

Natalia instilled in me the importance of participating in scientific conferences, and made sure I attended at least one every year. The most memorable was my first Gordon Research Conference, where she urged the organizers to invite me for an oral presentation. I was terrified. Natalia told me she would not let me fail and that she believed in me. She worked with me again, one-on-one, developing every slide of the presentation, and having me practice in front of our lab group at least four times. Again, this was painful, but I knocked it out of the park at that conference, and it completely boosted my self-esteem and gave me the confidence that I can be a part of the scientific community, and that I had important things to contribute. During that formative presentation, Natalia was there in the front row giving me thumbs up, shaking her head ‘yes,’ and using her body language to help me out when I was answering some tough questions at the end. This is what a caring mentor does and I try to emulate her with my own graduate students and postdocs.

Finally, I want tell you how Natalia supported me as a person, not just a student. Graduate school is hard, and we don’t always win or come out on top. Natalia knew when I was getting too stressed out. She would call me into her office and take off her professor hat and put on her friend hat. She would ask me if I was eating well and sleeping well, or if was I exercising. She would tell me to focus on what really matters, like family and health. She genuinely cared about my well-being then and now. Her mentorship and friendship continued after I left Purdue. We would talk regularly during my postdoc and she would make it a point to see me when she visited her son in NY. When I got my first interview for an assistant professor position, she was one of the first people I called. She was just as excited as I was and she dropped everything to help me prepare for my interview. She celebrated with me when I got the job, when I published my first paper from my own lab, when I received my first grant, and when I got tenure. Natalia is not only a good mentor, but a good person that cares deeply about people. She leads by example.

Dinesh Nagegowda – Natalia is an exceptional researcher who has contributed immensely to plant science, particularly in the area of specialized metabolism. She has mentored numerous students and post-docs, many of whom have gone on to establish themselves as independent researchers and science leaders in various parts of the globe. I am fortunate to have been one of her mentees during my post-doc tenure at Purdue University. Working with her was a privilege, and I was greatly inspired by her, shaping my path towards a career in science. Natalia serves as a remarkable example of exemplary scientific work in the field of plant biology.

Reuben Peters – Having served on grant review panels and the scientific advisory board for Manus Bio with Natalia over many years, I can testify to not only her sharp wit, but strong and caring support for the many members of her research group. Natalia has served as an inspiration to me for my own mentoring and I am happy to support her recognition as an ASPB Pioneer.

Dorothea Tholl – Natalia Dudareva is a pioneer in the field of plant volatiles. She started her research on the biosynthesis of volatile compounds in the group of another pioneer, Eran Pichersky, and quickly expanded her studies to address questions of volatile metabolic and subcellular regulation, often in the context of metabolic engineering. She has discovered new and alternative pathways in the biosynthesis of terpenoid and benzenoid compounds and the synthesis of their precursors. Natalia has never rested on established knowledge but, instead, has always tested the boundaries and been a driving force in the field as is obvious from her latest research endeavors to elucidate the transport of volatile compounds and their perception in plant-plant interactions. Her pivotal papers are highly recognized by generations of scientists in plant physiology and specialized metabolism. Few female scientists have achieved what Natalia was able to accomplish in this area. While her exciting scientific journey continues, she is already a true pioneer in plant biology. Throughout my own research career, Natalia has been a respected colleague, mentor, and a long time friend.

Jing-Ke Weng – I am truly honored to write a testimonial for Professor Natalia Dudareva, a remarkable pioneer in plant biology and a guiding light in my own scientific career. My journey with her began over twenty years ago as a graduate student at Purdue University, and since then, she has been a constant mentor, collaborator, and friend. Natalia’s passion for plant biochemistry is contagious and her tenacity in research is unparalleled. Her work not only advances the field but sets the highest standards for scientific excellence. What makes her truly special, though, is her commitment to mentoring. She has shaped not only my career but the lives of countless young scientists and faculty with her wisdom and guidance. Her blend of rigorous science and genuine care for her mentees makes her an extraordinary mentor. Natalia is more than a beacon in plant biology; she’s a personal hero to many of us!

Josh Widhalm – From the time I worked with her as a postdoc until now, as an Associate Professor, Dr. Dudareva’s mentorship has been paramount to my success. She has consistently advocated for my development as a scientist, providing valuable advice on grant writing, networking, and career planning. Her dedication to nurturing the next generation of scientists is evident in the thriving careers of those she has mentored. I am deeply grateful for her generosity, wisdom, and the lasting impact she has had on my development as a scientist and faculty member. I will forever be inspired by her continued pursuit of ambitious projects and her drive to make transformative discoveries in plant biology.