Testimonials for Pioneer Member Hugo Dooner

John R. Bedbrook – Hugo and I were colleagues at my first company, Advanced Genetic Sciences Inc., where he headed a highly productive corn genetics team and trained and mentored many young scientists in the background of corn genetics. During that time the work he did that most intrigued me was in collaboration with Jonathan Jones and Ed Ralston on the action of transposable elements in both corn and heterologous species. This work included a mapping experiment indicating that the most frequent movement of an element was in trans to the resident element position; the next most common movement was to other chromosome arms most consistent in length to the chromosome arm bearing the element. This work shed genetic light on the overall arrangement of chromosomes in the nucleus. Hugo was a consistent, clever and thoughtful scientist, a balanced and helpful colleague and a true friend thought his career.

George Chuck – Hugo Dooner is a outstanding scientist and mentor who made ground breaking discoveries on transposon mediated recombination in maize. Using elegant, sophisticated, and coplex gentic analyses, he changed the way we view how genome remodeling occurs under stress, discoveries that would make Barbara McClintock proud. Like McClintock, it appears many of his discoveries will only gain recognition much later in his career, but I’m glad ASPB has highlighted his achievements now.

Nelson Garcia – Hugo had a big impact on me when I was a graduate student. He put in a lot of hard work to develop unique genetic materials – making crosses every summer with his research staff, postdocs, and students. These unique genetic materials, and data derived from them, have greatly advanced our understanding of recombination, gene function, and transposon mobility. Hugo is indeed one of the biggest Pioneers in Plant Biology, and I was very lucky to have been mentored by him.

L. Curtis Hannah – I first met Hugo in the fall of 1969, when I moved from Purdue to Wisconsin and became Oliver Nelson’s first graduate student there. Hugo had been a graduate student at Wisconsin with Jerry Kermicle for a couple of years, and he instantly became my big brother in showing me the ropes of graduate school in the Wisconsin Genetics Department. Later, when Hugo became a post-doc with Oliver, I got to return the favor by introducing Hugo to enzymology. Hugo’s early training in genetics was classic. He mapped elements in the maize R locus, the gene used to first describe paramutation and transmissional effects and also was one of the first genes in which transposable elements were first studied. Hugo’s post-doctoral studies allowed him to pursue his interest in flavonoid synthesis at the biochemical and subsequently at the molecular level. Hugo exploited the use of transposable elements to isolate genes first at DNA Plant Technology in California and subsequently at Rutgers. And by use of the massive numbers of maize DNA sequences, Hugo identified and described new transposable element systems. To summarize, Hugo is a geneticist’s geneticist, old school but armed with the latest techniques. His interests have not waned since I met him over 50 years ago. It is appropriate that we recognize Hugo as a Pioneer of modern plant biology.

Jun Huang and family – I joined Hugo’s lab as a young graduate student who knew little about science and had no clear goals in life. Merely nine years after leaving his lab, I’m currently a VP of R&D at a major public company. Hugo shaped me into who I am today and what I can become tomorrow. I’m forever grateful. Hugo’s contribution to the plant community is fundamental and goes beyond science. He equiped next generation scientists with the right qualities to succeed in the coming decades. Publishing in The Plant Cell was a celebrated moment in my graduate study, but having learned to be inclusive regardless of people’s rank made me a person with integrity and humbleness. Graduating with a Ph.D. added credibility to my resume, but having learned to be resilient and keep a growth mindset will carry me throughout my life. Hugo never went for anything flashy, he emphasized lasting behaviors. His example is contagious even in my day-to-day life! Early in graduate school, I was shocked to learn that Hugo’s way of relaxing on Saturdays is by reading newspapers (newspapers!) on his couch with a cup of coffee in hand. After nine years in his lab, I am shaped to crave continuous improvement; it pains me if I don’t learn even for a day or two.

Yubin Li – It was a serendipitous transposition for me to start working with Hugo in the Waksman Institute at Rutgers back in April 2004. By then, being a well-trained molecular biologist, my career roadmap was rather straightforward. I left the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany, hoping to publish some fascinating maize genetics stories from projects in Hugo’s lab, prior to setting up my own research group in China. However, I ended up doing research in Hugo’s lab for eleven years, my longest stay in one place other than my hometown. Hugo is a true maize geneticist and full of stories about maize biology. He was passionate about every season’s corn nursery. During pollination season, one could frequently spot him pacing up and down the field. At lunch break he would unfold his cozy beach chair near his research plot, and eat his lunch, normally a sandwich wrap, and read the newspaper. This likeable location was near some delightfully cool shadows underneath oak trees,and his pollination apron was somewhere nearby. By harvest season, Hugo usually was eager to throw barbecue parties, and grilled corn was one of his favorites. Of course, cryptic kernel phenotypes from the field corns would be a big PLUS, too. The annual maize genetic conference was carnival time for Hugo, particularly at the beginning of the meeting when he was one of the very few individuals who remained standingl to rapturous applause for their 50+ times attendance at the meeting. There were many memorable moments in Dooner’s lab, chatting with each other over a cup of morning coffee or afternoon tea. Even more memorable were the gatherings at Hugo’s home during the holiday season. I consider Hugo to be the most influential mentor in my scientific career, and I look forward to future discussions with him about transposon stories, frontier or classic, as I promised.

Changfa Lin – I believe Hugo Dooner should be recognized as an ASPB Pioneer because his research helped to understand maize genome structure and made significant contributions to transposon biology and homologous recombination. When I worked as a postdoctoral researcher in his lab, I was impressed that he dedicated so much time to his research and enjoyed it. You would always find him with the aroma of his coffee drifting out of the lab on Saturdays. He was kind to his students and postdoctors, and he was open to listening and willing to help if needed. It’s my honor to support this recognition for Hugo Dooner.

Feng Lin – I studied in Dr. Dooner’s lab from June to September in 2012. He was very friendly to foreign students, and I spent a very unforgettable time in his laboratory. I miss Hugo very much!

Qinghua Kathy Wang – Hugo has been a great mentor over the years that I have worked with him. He truly enjoys academic pursuit, has a natural curiosity and passion for his field of research. He is a great model for those around him.

Clifford Weil – Hugo is easily one of the sharpest geneticists I have ever had the privilege to work with, bar none. If a cross-scheme passed the Hugo Test, it was solid! And many a paper napkin was sacrificed to conversations diagramming the chromosomal gymnastics of Ac/Ds elements, from which I learned a lot and for which I will always be grateful. It has been a privilege to call him a colleague and a friend for the past several decades and he is richly deserving of this recognition. Congratulations!

Xianghe Yan – Dr. Hugo Dooner has been an exceptional mentor to me. It was an excellent experience working with him. He strongly impacted my professional career.

Zhennan Xu – Hugo was a good adviser and was very patient teaching me . He was able, active and enlightened, and he was a visionary, not just a man of affairs or sound judgment. He worked very hard, and I learned a lot from him.