Testimonials for Pioneer Member John Ohlrogge

Doug Allen – John is truly a one of a kind mentor, scientist, and human being. Through his example, he taught life lessons about how to treat others and few could be more in tune with how plants work as evidenced by his insights, ideas, and creativity in plant biology. Though he was a pioneer in the field of lipid metabolism that inspired many, he was humble, not interested in self-promotion, and quick to give credit to others. His inquisitive nature and capacity to state purposeful questions and hypotheses that were profound made him a special gift to the scientific community. It was fun to be in his lab, he made others better, and made them feel valued. A number of my friendships were sparked through interactions in his lab or with those he knew, and I am proud to call him a friend. I could not think of a more deserving person for this recognition.

Philip Bates – John was a great PhD advisor. He gave instruction while allowing freedom to explore your own ideas. He taught you to think big with your experiments, but never forget your positive control. Most of all, he was the model of a caring and supportive advisor and made the lab group feel like a family.

Peter Doermann – When I came to John’s lab, I was amazed by the research spirit. From the first day on, I was integrated into the group and the lab routines. I not only learned many methods and techniques, but in addition I became acquainted with the strategy of how to address novel research questions. It was John who dragged me into plant lipid research, and I have to say that I am extremely grateful. Without his influence, I would not be at the place where I am right now. Thank you John!

Timothy Durrett – One of the best pieces of advice I was given as a graduate student was to do my post-doc with John Ohlrogge. My time spent in John’s research group was transformational and set the trajectory for my subsequent career. He provided mentorship and training that continue to impact me today. Scientifically, John encouraged and enabled a high degree of success among those in his lab. He was generous and innovative with his ideas, giving his postdocs opportunities to explore new areas but also reigning them in when needed. By example, he encouraged rigour and thoroughness in experimentation, and deep thinking about the subsequent results. However, John is more than a great scientist. He was courageous in standing up for what he believed in, speaking out, always politely yet strongly, even when his opinion was in the minority. John truly cared about the people in his research group. I will always be grateful to him and his wife Carol for the many ways that they looked after me and my family during our time at Michigan State. John is wonderful role model, not just as a scientist, but as a person, and one that I can only hope I come close to emulating.

Alenka Hlousek-Radojcic – This is a small token of gratitude for you, John B. Ohlrogge, and a well-deserved recognition. Your unique but impactful mentorship helped me, and I am convinced many other science apprentices, hone their skills and grow better not only as scientists and science communicators but as humanists. Your mentoring skills remind me of the slow-moving water that carves the path in firm rock, leaving a long-lasting legacy. And your legacy carries on. While some of us have focused on science education, others continue to make new discoveries. What we share are the imprints your mentorship left on our careers and personal lives. You respect a human being. You are a passionate explorer of the natural world. Many research groups fall under the pressure to publish and acquire funds, encouraging raw survivorship in research team dynamics. You did not. You somehow managed to navigate through the quirks and challenges created by a wide spectrum of personalities, contemporary life situations, the pressures of academia, and the competitive scientific community, without losing focus on the core tenets of the scientific process while being a humanist and engaged citizen. A collaborative, cordial, and friendly environment within and outside of the lab walls was the norm. A strong work ethic, open-mindedness, accessibility, tactfulness, respect, enthusiasm, support, honesty, friendly but when needed professional demeanor, are among the qualities you emanated, and they are also the qualities I aspire to. With immense gratitude for “walking the walk” and leading by example.

Patrick Horn – A humble individual and colleague, a brilliant thinker and a nurturing mentor, John Ohlrogge’s contributions to the field of plant lipid biochemistry and the careers of many scientists cannot be overstated. I was fortunate to spend part of my postdoctoral training in the Ohlrogge lab shortly before his retirement from MSU. Although it was a relatively brief period, the family-like lab environment he created was transformative in many ways for how I (and others) approached the scientific process and discovery, as well as how we would mentor future generations of scientists. At that time, on one of the doors in the lab were pictures of past members, a collection of people who became future leaders in plant biochemistry in academia and industry. It helped illustrate the lab family he (and his wife Carol) helped foster. He was instrumental in helping me and other lab members advance and craft new research avenues in oilseed biology and fundamental lipid biochemistry that will benefit society. At the core, he led by example in how to embrace and enjoy the journey of scientific discovery.

Jinjie Liu – John is a mentor and a friend. He knows science, and he takes care of people. John created a lab family for us, while helping us grow along the way. Being able to work with John is one of the best things I have done in my life.

Keith Roesler – John created a wonderfully stimulating lab environment that helped those who were fortunate enough to go through his lab grow scientifically. The lab retreats and the many lab social gatherings at his house contributed to a wonderful “family” atmosphere. This stimulating but friendly environment resulted in many significant discoveries in plant lipid biochemistry.

John Shanklin – I went for a postdoc at the PRL to work with Chris Somerville. He said “Welcome to the lab, I want to tell you about my good friend John Ohlrogge down the hall, he is a world expert on plant lipid metabolism.” I became friends with John during my postdoc and we had many positive interactions. Since then, John and I have worked on many grants and projects together. John and Jan Jaworski started the National Plant Lipid Cooperative meetings at Fallen Leaf Lake that later went on to become the Plant Lipid GRC.I was fortunate to be asked by John to help with the scientific program committee. John’s leadership, along with his colleagues Sten Stymne, Chris Somerville and Kent Chapman, established Plant Lipids as a supportive and collegial field. His influence on the field has been massively positive and his scientific contributions outstanding. Bravo John O!

David Shintani and Christie Howard – Working for John was the most enjoyable and rewarding time of my scientific career. He was a wonderful mentor who became a great friend. John gave me a lot of freedom to be creative, but was also there to reel me in when I needed it. He made the science fun and exciting, which made the lab a place where you wanted to be, even at 2 AM. Because of John’s reputation as a scientist, we were always having the best scientists passing through the lab, which was an amazing experience for a graduate student. John was also very kind. He and Carol would opened their home to the lab and made us all feel like part of their family. John has been an important influence on the careers and lives of so many people over the years and truly deserves to be recognized as a ASPB Pioneer Member.

Mi Chung Suh – John dedicated his entire life to enhancing our understanding of fatty acid biosynthesis and its application. He is very friendly and I learned how to enjoy my research and how to get big enthusiasm. I believe John’ friends and colleagues very like him and are always missing him.

Adrian Troncoso-Ponce – Trying to explain how important John has been in my life and career is a difficult task. Therefore, I am going to be very precise. John is one of the best people I have ever met in my life, and the world would be a better place with more people like him. When I left MSU, I knew I would never find a lab like his. Moreover, his wife Carol also contributed to just how special my experience was at MSU. John and Carol make you feel at home regardless of where you came from.