Testimonials for Pioneer Member Hans Bohnert

Anna M Clark – I worked in Hans Bohnert’s laboratory as a postdoc from 1990 to 1995 at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I remember those years as very exciting and intellectually stimulating. Hans had always many innovative and unique ideas which he passed on us, his lab people, who had to put them to work! Those were challenging yet very rewarding years. As a newcomer to the plant world, my PhD was in yeast mitochondrial genetics, I gained insight into plant molecular biology, biochemistry and physiology. During my last two years I had a chance to make even broader explorations into plant –insect interactions. I truly admired Hans for his energy and ability to mentor simultaneously dozens of researchers, many of whom came from different continents and scientific fields. Such an outstanding person deserves a wide recognition by this and many other honors.

Donald Copertino – Hans was instrumental in my successful career as a scientist. My first rotation as a graduate student was in Han’s lab, and he was an engaged and active member of my PhD committee.

Jane Dugas – There is not enough space on this page to write about the merits of Dr. Hans Bohnert. I worked with Dr. Bohnert as his Administrative Assistant for many years in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Arizona, until his transition to the University of Illinois. He was a fireball, working long hours on various projects, including manuscripts, grant proposals, journal reviews, and teaching, while mentoring a large laboratory full of eager-to-learn undergraduate students, graduate students and visitors from many disciplines. This merely reflects a snippet of his dedication to science, especially in the field of plant stress tolerance research. Kudos to Professor Bohnert; it was a formidable experience working with him. God bless.

Qingqui Gong – Dr. Hans Bohnert, or Professor, as I called him, was my PhD mentor at the University of Illinois. He generously encouraged me to explore a completely new research field and did his best to support my pursuit. His love for science was beaming and he made me believe that the world would definitely be a better place with our understanding of the nature and with the power of biotechnology. He worked busily from the early morning to the evening; 7 days a week, only went home to cut the lawn on Sunday afternoons. Yet he was always enthusiastically available when we wanted to discuss our progresses and problems. He always invited his peer scientists, the great minds in plant physiology, to visit our lab and talk with us individually after seminars. At that time, I was too young and too foolish to fully appreciate what he had done for us. Only when I became a principle investigator a few years later did I start to realize that how deliberately I had been trained to be a PI. Only when I lectured a hall of attentive freshmen did I see how much influence he had on me to be a great teacher. Indeed, how we teach is what we teach. Now I have been a PI for 12 years. Many of my students have chosen a life in science, and several of them have become PIs. Whenever they tell me how I had kindled their passion for science and how they appreciate what I have done for them, I would smile and think of Professor.

Wolfgang Löffelhardt – I met Hans Bohnert in 1979 during the early days of chloroplast molecular biology. We decided to start a collaboration on the genome of the enigmatic, peptidoglycan-surrounded plastids of the glaucophyte alga, Cyanophora paradoxa. Numerous visits to Düsseldorf, Cologne, then very frequently to Tucson (AZ) and finally to Urbana (IL) followed, where I strongly profited from Hans’ expertise and research drive. Our contributions in more than 30 joint papers were the foundation of the present status of Cyanophora in plastid evolution from endosymbiotic cyanobacteria: landmarks include the complete plastid (cyanelle) genome sequence, insights into the primordial protein import apparatus of cyanelles, the establishment of the first EST library of Cyanophora used to demonstrate the monophyly of the primary plastids of the Archaeplastida, evidence for an inorganic carbon concentrating mechanism in Cyanophora, etc. In summary, my scientific career with the highlight of the “Miescher-Ishida-Prize” of the International Society of Endocytobiology in 2013 would not have happened without the help and encouragement of Dr. Bohnert.

Saori Miyazaki – For me, the period I was with Hans in his lab as a postdoc was the start of everything. Being alone in US with zero skill in English communication was definitely one of hardest things in my life. But still it was a fantastic experience. Since I was the one who could not wake up early, I wrote a small portion of a manuscript draft at night and sent it by morning, and Hans checked and edited it by the next evening. We continued this for one week and then finished writing it. Experiments, coffee, and a Martini. After a while the whole lab became addicted to in the downtown at the University of Illinois. Hans was a super balanced boss with communicative skills, a lovely character, and strict scientific logic.

Zahide Neslihan Öztürk Gökçe – I remember the first time I met with Hans. I was travelling from Turkey, and he was supposed to pick me up at the airport in Tucson late at night. He was not holding anything like a name card, just a newspaper under his arm, when I saw him. I went to him and asked if he was Hans Bohnert. He was surprised, as he was not expecting a gal/girl, since we had only exchanged mail and he assumed I was a boy. I consider myself the be the luckiest gal/girl (whichever he prefers) in the world, as I had a chance to work with him and learn how to enjoy life and a few Martinis, while working all the time (7/24). We had our ups and downs in between, but I know he believed in me, and that belief carries me to this day. He is my mentor, not just a supervisor, as I am sure that whenever I need guidance in something, he will be there to help me. I would like to thank him for every little thing he did/is doing/and will be doing for me. Nessie, (the monster of Loch Ness) will always carry you deep in her heart.

Dong-Ha Oh – When I first came to the U.S. and met Hans, I was a gloomy visiting scholar with a nominal Ph.D., but without knowing what to do with my life. Hans was the one who showed me how to do science in a more critical way, and in a world slightly larger than just doing minipreps, gel-running, and growing (and killing) plants on Petri dishes. Patiently, he allowed me to struggle and explore for years. After finally publishing my first full paper under his guidance, I felt for the first time I was contributing a bit of an original idea to the scientific community. Hans showed me the emerging field of genomics. I still remember one afternoon Hans told us (me and another post-doc) about RNA and genome sequencing over glasses of wine – it was just years before his retirement, but he was still beaming with infectious excitement that overwhelmed me. That afternoon eventually led to the sequencing and chromosome-level assembly of the first two Arabidopsis-relative “extremophyte” species. Hans, with energy and vision, led us through the projects, but he wanted us to take the maximum credit possible. I would like to say, if I may, Hans is my scientific father. I strongly feel he is a pioneer and worth recognition for his achievement as a scientist and teacher.

Ellen Reardon – On January 5, 1985 at 2 PM on a Sunday afternoon, I pulled into Tucson to begin a post-doc at the U of A. I was carrying several Eppendorf tubes of DNA in cooler of rapidly diminishing dry ice. I had only Hans’s lab phone number to call and worried that anyone would be there on such a beautiful day. Hans picked up on the first ring!

Jutta Rickers-Haunerland – As one of many imported German postdocs in Hans’ lab, I do recount the vibe in the lab with lots of frantic activities. Many of us at the time worked on Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, a perfect plant for studies in metabolism, photosynthesis and genetic manipulation. I do remember Hans as a dedicated scientist full of energy, working endless hours on manuscripts, grant proposals, teaching and mentoring lots of eager undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and visitors in the vibrant lab. Time is Hans’ lab was extraordinary, and that is probably one of the reasons why many of the alumni stay in contact. Thank you, Hans, for having been part of my American experience! All the best and congratulations to your well deserved Pioneer recognition.

John C Thomas – Being a genetics PhD student at the University of Arizona in the early 1980’s, I helped interview three candidates for a new tenure track Assistant Professor position in the Biochemistry Department. During this conversation, Hans taught me that the so-called “immutable genome,” was actually vibrant, flexible, and ripe for exploration. I later worked as a plant tissue culture technician in Biosciences West in Han’s lab with Christine Michalowski and a host of characters from all over the world. One day I remember Hans returning from the Science Library, exclaiming that the stress tolerant model plant called “Mesembryanthemum crystallinum” was a perfect candidate for merging his interests in photosynthesis, metabolism, and genetic manipulation. Since then, the ice plant has played a central role in understanding stress and plant biology. Nine years and two post-docs later, Hans offered me a way to re-enter academia, returning to Tucson, to do a postdoc with him through the Arizona Cotton Growers association with the College of Agriculture. From my many experiences with Hans, I happily reflect on my continuing enthusiasm for understanding how organisms respond to challenges using their genomic toolbox. Hans continues to motivate me and my undergraduate students here at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to study many mysteries in genetics and plant biology.

Luz Vazquez-Moreno – Thank you Hans for the opportunity to postdoc in your lab. A great learning experience. My best to you.

Alan Smrcka – As a young graduate student, Hans’ infectious enthusiasm and mentorship was an inspiration to me. Although I was in Richard Jensen’s lab for my Ph.D., the Bohnert and Jensen labs were right next to each other and there was a dynamic atmosphere driven in large part through Hans’ energy. It was a fun and collaborative place to be and I appreciated Hans’ mentorship.

Dan Vernon – I did my Ph.D. work in Hans’ lab in 1986 -1992. I loved the vibe in the lab – it was a Bustlin’ Hubbub of Frantic Activity: 15-20 great people from all over the world, fueled by the lab’s trademark toxically strong coffee and (back then) Hans’ secondary cigarette smoke in the hallways (those were the days!). Most of us worked on the salinity response in M. crystallinum, which had just gotten underway, and the lab motto became “Better Living through StressTM “. But Hans’ lab wasn’t all Mesembryanthemum all the time: folks there also worked on Rubisco, chloroplast protein import, succulents (both the gooey innards and the epidermis), and even the occasional cyanobacterium or monocot. What a great environment for grad-school learnage: it was impossible not to learn by osmosis about all sorts of diverse topics in plant science and molecular biology. And those of us doing our graduate work with Hans learned early on how science-as-a-career works: the importance of funding, publications, and getting excited about diverse topics. So thanks to Hans. Better Living through StressTM !

Akiho Yokota – I hosted a satellite meeting on carbon metabolism at the 9th International Congress on Photosynthesis,, and since then deepened my friendship with Hans. In particular, I received a great deal of tangible and intangible support for my scientific life at the National Institute for Environmental Studies and Nara Institute of Science and Technology. I visited Tucson many times, where I got in touch with many related researchers, including Hans. Even now, I receive heartwarming emails every time something goes wrong in Japan. Thank you so much Hans!