Testimonials for Pioneer Member John Browse

Shen Bayon de Noyer – John Browse has made signifiant contributions to science, to the field of plant lipids, and much more. He taught me the value of trust and patience and how they lead to the production of “Good Science”. His example of leadership carries me though to this day, taking on any student, any task, any grant, and leading them to fruition. I carry many memories of his lab atop the corner of a Palouse green. Best, Shen.

Hui Chen – John Browse is indeed a great mentor and great scientist. I was fortunate enough to have post-doctoral training in his lab. I am honored to support John’s nomination as a pioneer of the ASPB.

Nathan Havko – John has made exceptional contributions to understanding lipid chemistry and the role of lipid-derived hormones in plant biology. While these considerable accomplishments are documented in his publication record, his inspirational leadership has immeasurably benefitted plant science.

Chaofu Lu – John is an extraordinary plant scientist who made significant contributions to our understanding of plant lipids. He was also a great mentor to many who themselves turned out to be leading scientists in various fields. Many of us call him a friend and collaborated with him on research projects and publications long after leaving his lab. His lab’s atmosphere has always been friendly and thus encourages academic learning and the exploration of new ideas. John is very supportive of his trainees, like postdocs and graduate students, with advice for solving experimental problems to advising career development.

Ajin Mandaokar – I had the good fortune of working under the supervision of John Browse as a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University from 2000 to 2007. John is a renowned scientist and is regarded as a pioneer in the field of plant lipids. Over the last four decades, John’s research contributed toward the illustration of genetic networks engaged in the biosynthesis of storage lipids and the Jasmonate pathway responsible for male fertility in Arabidopsis. He is not only an exceptional scientist, but also an extraordinary mentor. He had a tremendous impact on my career in many ways. As a member of his research team, I had the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies like gene microarrays, etc. He always pushed his research fellows to think out of the box and come up with novel ideas and approaches to address a problem. John never forced his ideas or defined any protocols in the lab, but he constantly encouraged his students and research fellows to explore and discuss various options. Under his supervision, the goal was not just to publish a scientific paper, but rather he encouraged us to do good science that would ultimately lead to scientific discoveries and generate new knowledge for the betterment of society. I am convinced by this philosophy, and now I encourage all my colleagues and subordinates to think differently, to make new scientific discoveries and improve the existing processes in genetic discovery projects.

John made ground-breaking discoveries in the areas of lipid and oxylipin signaling. For me, the biggest impact of his research on the isolation and characterization of Jasmonate-deficient and signaling mutants in Arabidopsis was creative approaches to develop a genetic male sterility system for hybrid seed production in crop plants, especially mustard and rice. Besides scientific contributions, John’s communication skills are incredible. He does so clearly and with respect to other’s points of view. John spends a good amount of time with students and post-docs discussing how to write a scientific paper. He encourages everyone to tell a scientific story through writing that will engage readers throughout the paper. Such skills are reflected in research papers coming from his lab. This had a lasting impact on my communication skills, and I share these skills with my team members to bolster their efficiency, productivity, and innovation in my current organization.

Chris and Shauna Somerville – One of the highlights of my scientific life was the years my students and I spent collaborating with John. My (first) lab at Michigan State was only about a year old when John turned up for a sabbatical from his position at DSIR in New Zealand. As I recall, he had trained in lipid biochemistry and was interested in learning about genetics. I was interested in everything, so John and I decided to see if we could find mutants of Arabidopsis with alterations in lipid metabolism. We found an old abandoned GC in the basement of the PRL that had a big glass tube of ground-up brick for a column and started injecting methyl esters of leaf lipids onto it. We found the first mutant in sample #67, which lacked a plant-specific chloroplast lipid that had attracted speculation as to function from lipid biochemists, which we brought to a close with a paper in Science. That kept us going for another 20,000 samples! John managed to extend his sabbatical several times and eventually resigned from DSIR and returned to MSU until he accepted a faculty position at WSU. We had a lot of fun working through those mutants with our students Peter McCourt and Ljerka Kunst and many other postdocs and students in our labs who joined the project later. Both John and I, and our students and postdocs, eventually expanded our interests beyond simple loss-of-function mutants but I look back on our collaboration as some of the most uninhibited and collaborative curiosity-driven research I ever participated in. Ironically, the body of work facilitated the consolidation of knowledge about how to control plant lipid composition and the development of crop plants with improved fatty acid composition which led to the elimination of catalytic hydrogenation of edible lipids, an unhealthy practice that was formerly used for production of vegetable oils.

Laura Wayne – Even as an undergraduate, I was immediately drawn to John Browse’s research in plant lipid metabolism because it spaned the line between basic and applied science, and I saw how it aligned with my own research interests. As a graduate student in John’s laboratory, I grew into a scientist. Yes, John helped us develop and refine our technical skills, but he also demonstrated exemplary leadership through his passion for science and scientists. John’s compassion and patience for his students and colleagues made him a role model for all of us. His dedication and perseverance in validating hypotheses through multiple approaches made John a great scientist and led to truly remarkable discoveries (some more than a decade in the making). Being able to see the forest through the trees while focusing on every detail and word are some of the many things I learned and collated from John. John’s lessons on clear and concise writing and storytelling have reverberated throughout my career: identifying key questions and thinking ahead to the final experiment needed to wrap up a story, and of course the importance of having a denouement. As scientists, we can strive to emulate John; however, the day I found myself wearing gold-toe socks with Birkenstocks, I realized John had influenced more than just my career.

Zhanguo Xin – Dr. Browse pioneered study of the recalcitrant pathways of lipid biosynthesis and desaturation using mutational analysis in Arabidopsis. His unique inquisitive mind and encouragement to consider the big picture when conducting research broadened his contributions in plant biology to areas beyond lipid metabolism. For example, the discovery of Jas proteins greatly enhanced our understanding of jasmonic acid signaling. The philosophy of scientific research he instilled in us continues to guide our current research.