Testimonials for Pioneer Member Sally Mackenzie

Jesus Beltran – Sally Mackenzie is a bright scientist and mentor with impressive achievements in plant science. She has made outstanding contributions to understanding plant organellar genome behavior, plastid specialization, and organelle-triggered epigenomic reprograming. Her findings translate to interesting new applications in crop breeding. Through effective mentorship, Sally has supported a generation of scientists from multiple backgrounds, diversifying the plant science community and contributing to its professional development. During my time as a postdoc in her lab, we worked on exciting projects with several interesting outcomes that have become appreciated by the research community. Overall, I am thankful for her mentorship, support, and the positive impact she made on my journey as scientist. Sally’s service transcends beyond the lab and classroom. I am aware of her leadership within the ASPB and other societies. From her participation in multiple committees and initiatives, to having served as ASPB’s president, Sally’s exceptional contributions to the Society constitute a legacy that certainly makes her an ASPB Pioneer. My best regards to you Sally for this well-deserved recognition.

Xuehui Feng – It was an pleasure to be her student. She has been a role model for my career. Her attitude and hard work have been an inspiration to me. I wish her all the best!

Alenka Hafner – Sally has been my advisor for a few short years, and she quickly made a lasting impact on my life as a scientist. She encourages me to pursue my interests rigorously and motivates me when I need it most. Sally has established several groundbreaking avenues of research in the field, while caring deeply about members of her lab and community. I feel fortunate to have her as my mentor.

David Holding – Dr. Mackenzie was the creator and first director of the University of Nebraska’s Center for Plant Science Innovation (PSI), which continues to thrive, in part because of her carefully laid groundwork. Sally played a central role in recruiting new PSI members and developing it into the most successful center at the university in terms of collaboration, grant dollars and publications. She is a natural team builder and spearheaded many collaborative research efforts, both within the center, the wider university, and nationally. Her own work in mitochondrial genetics gained her international recognition, while she trained generations of post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates in basic and advanced classical and molecular genetics. Sally’s classroom teaching spans high school, undergraduate and graduate plant biology and genetics, and she is inclusive and nurturing to junior faculty in all her education efforts. She is a strong advocate for talented but perhaps underappreciated scientists. Dr. Mackenzie is pioneer in plant biology and in every sense, a Pioneer of the ASPB.

Bailin Li – I’m grateful for Sally’s mentorship. She not only taught me genetics, but also demonstrated how to be considerate and treat others with patience and kindness. Sally’s sharp mind is obvious, but her gentle heart is what I remember the most.

Saleem Mohammed – I have known Sally since 2003, when I joined Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI) at University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a graduate assistant. Sally was head of the PSI at UNL. My task as a graduate assistant pursuing a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering was to develop a website for PSI and its faculty members. In the two years I spent in this role, I had the opportunity to watch other students and postdocs work on fascinating research projects and interact with Sally. She sparked my interest in research, leading me to the life changing decision to enroll in a PhD program under her mentorship. I completed my PhD in 2008 (in Bioinformatics, focusing on prediction of targeting sequences using ML and the prediction of proteins with alternative start codons in their mRNA). Afterward, I worked for an agricultural biotech company for two years, before starting a genomics company. Today, I am a biotech entrepreneur and a consultant in bioinformatics. Throughout this time, Sally played a large role in my professional life. If not for her dedication to her chosen field and the right push at the time I needed it, I would not have taken up an exciting and fulfilling career in biotechnology.

Sally has advised and guided more than 30 students and postdoctoral researchers over the last several years. She has provided excellent opportunities for her students and postdoctoral researchers to become responsible scientists and leaders. She has been a constant source of positive feedback, even if things aren’t going well. She taught us to be aggressive, yet maintain work-life balance. She knows how to create a friendly work atmosphere in which teamwork thrives. She ably guided me to learn lab techniques along with computational skills, which gave me an edge over others when it came to new opportunities.

Sally is a visionary leader who has set up several collaborative initiatives that promoted interdisciplinary research and innovation at the university. She keeps herself abreast of the latest developments when it comes to science and technology, and she is a sounding board for those of us grappling with changes and developments in this domain. She is able to spot new areas/domains of specialization. For example, she had the foresight of seeing bioinformatics as an upcoming field before the genomic revolution in 2005.

It has been two decades since I joined her lab, and she continues to provide me guidance. She stays interested in what I do, and provides me opportunities for collaboration. Sally is a role model for whom I am immensely grateful, and I wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Ajay Sandhu – I was fortunate to join Sally’s lab as a Ph.D. student. She has been a great mentor and a wonderful human being. Her passion for science and understanding plant mitochondrial genetics is unquestionable. I am grateful grateful to be a member of Mackenzie Lab and still enjoy the memories of a wonderful time spent.

Rosemary Schwegel – Sally’s work has been groundbreaking by re-examining previous assumptions and validating novel techniques in epigenetics with powerful methods of statistical analysis. She has dedicated her life to the advancement of plant science, supporting her students and fellow researchers, and the plant science field as a whole.

Vikas Shedge – Sally is a preeminent and world-renowned expert in the field of plant mitochondrial and plastid biology, and their associated traits, genomes, and genetic regulation. Sally’s significant contributions to the field of organellar biology – for instance the topics of cytoplasmic male sterility and genome maintenance genes – are exemplified by numerous seminal and well cited publications. Since around 2010, Sally’s research has focused on organellar-processes-associated epigenetics. This exciting research has resulted in several important publications highlighting the utility of her lab’s research findings for enhancing crop productivity.

The scientific contributions Sally led did not come easy or by stroke of luck. She achieved success through her passion for research, the people in her lab, grit, and hard work. As lab members, we were always impressed by her ability to work hard and do so consistently. We were amazed at her memory – I’ll bet that even today she can recall the results of an obscure experiment I performed 15 years ago. And we were amazed at the breadth of her knowledge – diverse areas such as genetics, evo-devo, plant biochemistry, plant disease resistance, etc.

Sally manifested a phenomenal work ethic. Besides her personal research, she signicantly impacted many junior faculty members. Sally was the founding director of the Plant Science Initiative (PSI) at the University of Nebraska, where she was instrumental in recruiting, growing, and retaining talented lab leaders. In service to the plant research and broader scientific community, I saw Sally work tirelessly on NSF, DOE, USDA grant panels, ASPB committees, and review numerous journal articles.

As a PhD student in her group, I experienced firsthand Sally’s kindness and genuine care for her lab members. Our wellbeing was important to her; many times she went out of her way to support us when we needed it. Personally, I credit Sally with the many life lessons I earned, both at the professional and human level.

Peibei Sun – Dr. Sally Mackenzie was a fantastic mentor for my research project, and she provided a lot of support for my studies and life. She is a great role model for working hard with passion. She has made tremendous contributions to plant scientific research during her career. I am honored to support Dr. Mackenzie as a Pioneer of the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Zarir E. Vaghchhipawala – Sally was my Ph.D. advisor at Purdue University and subsequently at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was an excellent mentor and defined my scientific path. Her scientific ethics and values were instilled in me. She created this amazing lab environment for me to learn and grow as a scientist. To this day, I am thankful to her for my love of science and discovery. She was highly supportive of me and my career even after I graduated from her lab. She is an amazing scientist who has shown the world that epigenetic memory exists and can be leveraged for crop improvement. I believe her discoveries will benefit agriculture for a long time to come. She truly is a pioneer in her field.

Yashitola Wamboldt – I worked with Sally for many years. Sally is a great mentor, compassionate and insightful, a great role model for Women in Science. I am lucky that I got to work with her at a stage in my career when her mentorship was crucial, and I know she is always there if I need to ask for advice. Through the years, I has seen how Sally has not only guided students and postdocs through their academic and research challenges, but also helps members of the lab personally above and beyond. The lab was always a melting pot of students and postdocs from all over the world, and I miss our lab potluck dinners! Sally truly deserves to be recognized for her contributions to ASPB.

Xiaodong Yang – I would like to express my sincere and profound gratitude to my mentor, Sally Mackenzie, at the Pennslivina State University, and my full support for her recognition as a Pioneer of ASPB. Sally has been an incredible mentor for me. She guides me on the path of pursuing science, helps me when I am in despair, gives me strength when I face difficulty, and provides constant encouragement and support. Although I have left Mackenzie Lab, I will always be a member of the Mackenzie Lab, as I have inherited Sally’s teachings and her love for science, which I will pass on to more people.