Testimonials for Pioneer Member Joseph Ecker

Jose Alonso – In the last 30 years, plant biology has been marked by several key events: the adoption of Arabidopsis as a tractable genetic model system, the sequencing of the first plant genome, the development of a publicly available Arabidopsis gene-indexed mutant collection, etc. Joe Ecker not only led many of these community-building efforts, but also inspired a whole generation of plant biologists to do bigger and better science. Personally, Joe’s inexhaustible energy and passion for research have always been an inspiration for me. Since my time as a postdoc in his lab, I found Joe’s visionary perspective on plant biology research refreshing, inspirational and energizing. I consider Joe’s ability to convey his passion for science and innovation as, perhaps, his biggest asset as a mentor, and I hope he will continue this important work for many years to come.

Jeffery Dangl & Sarah Grant – Joe has been a friend and mentor to us both since we met while we were graduate students at Stanford and Joe was a postdoc in Ron Davis’ lab. Since that time, Joe has continued to encourage us to think broadly about plant science. He has introduced us to new technologies and opened our minds to the possibilities for advancing plant biology using those technologies. Neither of us would be the scientists we are today without Joe’s personal influence. Joe is certainly a Pioneer of modern plant biology and we are very happy to see him receive this Pioneer Membership.

Brian Gregory – Joe is a leading researcher in the field of ethylene signal transduction and plant genomics in general. Always a pioneer, he is driving technological development to move the plant research field forward!

Hongwei Guo – Joe leads the frontier and has had a significant impact on plant molecular and genome biology. I am delighted to honor him as one of the ASPB Pioneer Members. Joe made many fundamental contributions to modern plant biology when it was still in its infancy. His lab is synonymous with “ethylene lab” to the plant hormone community. He is one of the pioneers to initiate Arabidopsis genome sequencing and develop the genome tiling array. His team mapped and indexed a majority of the Salk Arabidopsis mutant lines. The great legacy of his research is still influencing the way people carrying out plant study nowadays. I was very fortunate to have my postdoc training in Joe’s lab at Salk institute. He is an extraordinary mentor and promoted a group of young researchers to thrive and lead in their field later, which I am grateful to be one of them. Joe’s guidance and mentality not only benefit me, but also are passed to my own lab members with regard to how to conduct science, to explore the world, and to empower the next generation.

Yupeng He – Joe brought me to the fantastic world of plant and epigenomics. He also has been a great mentor. I am always grateful to Joe.

Shao-shan Carol Huang – Being in the Ecker lab and seeing Joe’s vision for the field was a transformative experience. This experience and his strong support set the foundation for my scientific career.

Taiji Kawakatsu – I believe Joe Ecker is a pioneer in plant biology community. He has changed everything through the resources and technologies he led to develop. Joe is a tremendous trainer and always cares about trainees. Joe supported me all the time when I was a postdoc in his lab and even after I left his lab. I cannot imagine my on-going research projects without days in his lab.

Joe Kieber – I was one of Joe’s early postdocs, working with him when he was at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a really exciting time in the lab, as I arrived after the first crop of ethylene mutants had been isolated using the now ubiquitous triple response of Arabidopsis. We were so excited to see what came out the screen; I remember calling Joe very late one night telling him about the homology of CTR1 to Raf kinases. He was as excited as I was. He instilled a real enthusiasm for science, especially high quality science. Joe introduced me to the wonderful world of plant hormones and really helped mold me into the scientist I am today. He was an outstanding mentor, and I will be forever grateful for his guidance and inspiration.

Mathew G. Lewsey – The most striking thing about Joe is the way his incredible enthusiasm for science rubs off on everyone around him. After we chatted, I would always walk out of his office excited about what we were studying, believing it was important and looking forward to getting back to work. By doing this for everyone in the lab, he created a fantastic academic environment – the best any of us could have asked to train in. I genuinely hope I can do the same for my lab!

Chongyuan Luo – I was a postdoc with Joe between 2012 and 2019. I am always amazed by Joe’s ability to reinvent himself every five years and always position his research at the field’s leading edge. From the Arabidopsis genome to lots and lots of epigenomes, Joe is a pillar of data-driven and high-throughput biology. During my time in Joe’s lab, I have learned that no project is too ambitious, no scale is too large, and no equipment is too expensive :-). Thank you for being such an amazing mentor!

Ronan O’Malley – Joe has created a really special place on the cliffs over Black’s Beach, where plant biology and cutting edge technologies combine to open up new horizons of discovery. His extensive contributions to plant biology are well documented. However, I think his impact will be even further amplified as the many excellent scientists who trained in his lab pass on the lessons they learned in his lab to the next generation of scientists. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him.

Hong Qiao – The tanning in Joe Ecker’s lab shaped me as a scientist and has benefited me life -long. I learned how to think independently and pursue science . Joe’s incredible vision in science benefited many of us. You would be surprised how much knowledge is in his head, and communication with him is always very inspiring. You can gain many different ideas after each conversation with him, even it is very brief. Joe himself is very diligent. You will get his feedback in a second if you ask scientific questions, and he will immediately provide as much information as he knows. He will also try his best to get the resources needed for your research. He creates a role model for his trainees, showing that you must put your head down and work hard. As a mentor, Joe cares about his trainees. He provides tremendous freedom, allowing us to explore science. He is very generous, allowing us to develop our own research direction, providing us valuable suggestions, and letting us take projects with us to start our own career. This is strong support for junior faculty. Joe is an excellent scientist and mentor.

Robert Schmitz – Joe is the most inspiring mentor and scientist I have worked with. He has so much passion and curiosity for science, which is accompanied by boundless enthusiasm that is contagious to those that work alongside him. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker that relishes a new challenge. This results in innovative methods and approaches, which leads to pioneering research and discovery. He’s an explorer, yet he has the ability to dig deep. His style of hypothesis-free driven research led to many firsts that extend beyond plant biology (genome sequencing, assembly, genetic markers, cDNA sequencing, mutant collections, interactomes, DNA methylomes, strand-specific RNA-seq, cistromes, etc.). When needed, he can follow up these discoveries, as he did with dissection of the ethylene signaling pathway. Importantly, his mentorship for his mentees extends well beyond their time in his lab. His efforts helped to elevate the status of discoveries from the model plant, A. thaliana to other eukaryotes and his contributions to plant biology are deeply embedded in the literature. His accomplishments as a scientist firmly establish his membership as an ASPB pioneer.

Roberto Solano – Joe has been a pioneering scientist and an international leader in plant hormone signalling, genomics and even human genetics, making dozens of extraordinary contributions in these fields.

Liang Song – Joe’s ability to reinvent himself is truly inspiring. He has contributed an impressive amount of knowledge and resources to the community from the projects of ethylene signaling, T-DNA collections, genomics, and DNA methylation. Being his trainee means one can enjoy the freedom, resource, and support from Joe to pursue ambitious scientific questions.

Anna Stepanova – I did my PhD in the Ecker lab in 1996-2001, and I moved with him from UPenn to Salk. The environment in the lab was exciting and invigorating. This was the time when chromosome 1 of Arabidopsis was being sequenced in the Ecker lab, the Salk T-DNA collection was being generated, and the functions of the key ethylene signaling genes, EIN2, EIN3, EIN5, EIN6, RAN1, ETO1, ERF1 and others, were being elucidated. Joe gave us the freedom to explore and create in the lab, and to take the paths in research we thought were best suited to tackle the challenges we faced. Joe’s enthusiasm for science was contagious: for me, working long (12+) hours every day in his lab did not feel like a chore, but more like a privilege. Joe’s ability to attract a bright and interactive group of postdocs enabled me, a new graduate student, to quickly pick up a wide variety of hands-on skills and build a solid theoretical foundation in plant genetics and molecular biology. I continue to use many of those skills today and teach them to new generations of scientists, both in the lab and in the classroom.