Testimonials for Pioneer Member John Browse

Philip Bates – As a postdoctoral mentor John was great. He let pointed me toward interesting projects, but he let me choose what I wanted to do. He gave thoughtful advice and was always encouraging. He was an excellent mentor for advancing my writing skills, and to this day I still follow many of the tips he gave. John was (and still is) a great proponent for the career advancement of his mentees, and he has helped me to make it to where I am now. I’ve learned a lot from John that I utilize in my own career and in the mentoring I do in my own lab.

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.

Kimberly Cotton-Price – It seems impossible to sum up the impact that Dr. Browse made on my career: I feel nearly every aspect of my life was improved through his mentorship. Besides his brilliant understanding of lipid biochemistry, I felt his greatest strength was his ability to communicate to others. I always loved hearing him speak and learning new techniques; no matter how often I heard a story, he was always able to make it interesting and I always pulled something of value from it. His powerful respect for others made collaborations less intimidating, so I could set aside my natural introversion tendencies. And his diplomatic approache helped me develop my own composure and patience. Even when things weren’t working, John’s quiet way of encouraging and directing left me feeling optimistic. Always ask three people; never forget your controls. Congrats John, and thank you for everything.

Jeremy Dahmen – John Browse’s impact on my scientific career has been tremendous. Words can not accurately describe how much appreciation I have for being a part of his lab. During my time there I had opportunities for not only developing my scientific knowledge, but also personal growth. It was valuable to observe how he mentored scientists in his lab. Several of these lessons for training and developing others still guidie me today. John has had a most excellent impact on the fields of plant biology and lipid biochemistry; however, his influence will become even more significant over time, because it will continue to impact the training of future generations of scientists through the people he has taught, trained, and developed.

Jeremy Jewell – In the first couple years after I met John Browse in 2007, I came to know him as an idea man with astoundingly reliable communication skills, suggestioning he knew more than I had even forgotten.I still respect him as my intellectual better and a great idea man, but I have also come to know him as someone who loves Bruce Springsteen, laughs out loud, and rubs his forehead when he is thinking hard: the son of a gun is a great guy.

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.

Hyun Uk Kim – John, it is my honor to have been able to do postdoctoral research from 2005 to 2008 under your guidance. Because of the lessons I learned from you, I am currently raising students in the field of plant lipid biochemistry in Korea.

Jonathan Lightner – I was perhaps John’s first Ph.D. graduate at Washington State. John developed a rigor of thought and quality of scientific judgement in me that has served me in all aspects of my life to this day. As a mentor and a young Assistant Professor at the IBC in the 80’s, he provided all of us with lessons in what I sometimes refer to as ‘radical self direction’. He simply would not tell you what to do, or what he thought of your results or what you should do next. This approach had powers and perils, and at times the lab community was a bit of an asylum; but for me it worked ! Some of my most impactful work at that time was the result of his quiet patience, with me following lines of inquiry that he was confident were dead ends. For 30 years now I’ve aspired to create this environment (to a less radical extent !) in the technical teams I’ve led in industry. Science progresses from careful testing of thoughtful hypotheses, and I learned form John the power of not being over attached to my own, or anyone else’s, view of just what the best hypothesis is. Most importantly, as a young untenured assistant professor with only a few years in the department, John supported me through some fraught departmental struggles when I naively ran afoul of one of the many formidable ‘old lions’ at the IBC. It is only with 30 years of further experience that I fully understand how significant (and risky) a stand this was for him, and I thank him for it, and for the lesson as well in doing the right thing for people.

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.

Jay Shockey – I came to John Browse’s laboratory fresh from completion of a reasonably successful, but very turbulent, Ph.D. program. While I had had great instructors for my graduate coursework, and had learned valuable skillsets in the lab, the contentious relationship between my co-mentors/Ph.D. advisors had often left me confused, depressed, and angered, as their political bickering and posturing often left me stuck in the middle, distracted from my work and dealing with issues that shouldn’t have been my problem. Joining John’s lab, with more than a dozen postdocs and nearly as many grad students from all walks of life and from points all over the globe, was an inspiring change for me. Despite the size of the lab and the diversity of the projects the group as a whole were studying, there was no doubt that we were all a ‘team’, and that sense of community was so helpful. But most of the credit for the excellent lab culture was directly attributable to John Browse himself. His dignity, grace, humility, even-handedness, and compassion for every member of the group set an excellent example for all of us younger, aspiring scientists, and made it so much easier to stay focused and motivated during times of struggle in the lab or in our personal lives. While my PhD advisors educated me as much on how not to comport yourself as they did to teach me positive aspects of learning science, John’s example is the model that I still aspire to emulate, even now, nearly 20 years after leaving his lab. I cannot begin to repay him or thank him enough for being the right person at the right time for me as I struggled to find my path.

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.

Bryan Thines – John created an exceedingly positive, supportive, and cooperative lab community. He has many strengths as a mentor, but one of his most impactful is his ability to gently coax the highest standards out of his mentees. This has stuck with most of us over the years. Even now, when I think I have a “complete” product of some kind (ie. a paper or data set), I always make myself go back over things a few more times; I try to think even deeper and find ways to make the end product even better and more thorough.

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.

Jingrui Wu – Luckily, I was John’s very first graduate student. As my Ph.D. advisor, John shaped much of my views, thinking and methodology as a scientist. He is one of the most influential mentors in my life and scientific career. I am very grateful to John for all he did for me during my graduate studies. He is a great scientist, a great mentor, and a great person!

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.