Testimonials for Pioneer Member Richard Vierstra

Taijoon Chung – Rick has contributed to many areas of plant sciences from phytochrome biochemistry to genetics for the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagy. I am still working on one of these exciting research topics and proud to be a part of his journey.

Hongyong Fu – Rick made seminal contributions in light signaling, the ubiquitin system, and autophagy. He served on many ASPB committees, from the Program Committee when he was an Assistant Professor to his most recent service as Treasurer, the chair of the Board of Trustees and financial advisory committee of ASPB. These are just two of his many contributions to the society. He is also the current President of the International Society of Plant Molecular Biologists and coordinating the next meeting in Australia in 2022.

Derek and Jamie Gingerich – Rick’s scientific impact has been extensive, but his contributions to the field extend far beyond that. Most important to me, he has trained a generation of scientists and educators. Undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, visiting scientists, and even high school students have learned the craft of scientific inquiry from him. Those of us who worked in his lab learned how to identify the key questions that needed to be answered, how to develop a realistic experimental plan to address those questions, and how to present our results clearly. Rick always had exacting standards for the publications, presentations, and grant applications coming out of his lab. I think all of us who were in his lab exited as far better scientific writers than when we started! As a faculty member at a primarily-undergraduate university, the lessons that Rick taught me strongly inform my teaching and mentoring, and his influence extends much further than he may realize.

Zhuhua Hua – Dr. Vierstra is a world-renowned professor, who pioneered work on protein biochemistry in ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like protein modification systems and phytochromes. His broad knowledge in plant science and diverse research activities have impacted the career development of many young scientists as well as the fundamental understanding of plant life in the field.

Scott Saracco – Rick Vierstra should truly be considered a Pioneer in plant research for his contributions across several disciplines and for continuingly bringing new techniques to bear on challenging questions in plant biology. From his initial seminal discoveries in the phytochrome field, linking phytochrome degradation to the ubiquitin pathway, through his continued study of the mechanisms of phytochrome light perception and signaling using the latest cryo-electron microscopy techniques, Rick continues to be at the forefront of applying new methodologies and technologies to elucidate fundamental processes in plant biology. While in his laboratory, I was impressed by the numerous intersections of research across the different focus areas and how Rick leveraged the findings in one field to advance another one.

John Shanklin – Being Rick’s first Ph.D. student allowed me to work closely with him at the bench. I learned a lot of biochemistry and how to purify proteins from natural sources. Training was rigorous and intense and the discovery of the plant protein phytochrome as the first physiological substrate for the ubiquitin system is a source of pride for me. The first few years in his lab with Tom Burke, Judy Callis, Merten Jabben and Peggy Hatfield were very formative and productive for me. Having a boss that taught me not only biochemistry, but also how to play ice hockey was a lot of fun.