Testimonials for Pioneer Member Stephen Long

Deepak Jaiswal – I joined Steve’s lab as a postdoctoral researcher to work on developing a computational model, although I had minimal experience working with plant scientists. The time I spent with him as a postdoctoral researcher was full of situations that inspired me to make plants the central theme of my professional career through teaching and research with an emphasis on finding sustainability-related solutions closely linked to plants. The professional and personal aspects of my life have been positively impacted by being a direct witness to Steve’s pragmatic, empathic and compassionate approach and his ability to be an extraordinary mentor and lead by example. I wish Steve many more years of exceptional scholarship, good health, happiness, and the company of loved ones worldwide.

Justin McGrath – Steve is always thinking of ways to make a big impact addressing the greatest challenges the world faces. His excitement to solve these problems is paired with an unfailing desire to include everyone in science that instills ambition to do great things. That inclusiveness is something that led me and many others to study plant biology. I am happy for being able to work on these problems and grateful for Steve’s role in guiding me here. It is nice that dividends from this recognition will go toward advancing careers of those in the field.

Pat and Kim Morgan – Dr Steve Long made a lasting impact on every person who worked with him. In choosing a graduate advisor, it was suggested that I choose someone second only to choosing a life partner in terms of impact and longevity. I was fortunate enough to be able to study with Dr. Long as he started his UIUC lab. He has the ability to develop collaborative teams that function on the very highest levels. His inclusive, collaborative research style fosters innovation and discoveries that are not achievable in more siloed research labs. These were lessons I learned and continue to build upon in my career 20 years later. As a mentor, Dr. Long has the right balance of stepping in when needed, while allowing individuals to discover and grow independently. He truly cares for each person as an individual and modifies his approach throughout their development. That relationship does not end when the person leaves his lab. Rather, Dr. Long is a friend, mentor, and advocate for life through continued collaborations and projects. He is always willing to support and promote those he as worked with to achieve their fullest potential. I am privileged to have worked with Dr. Long, and I am certain I would not be where I am today without his guidance, encouragement, and support.

Shawna Naidu – I spent about six years working with Steve as a post-doc and Research Scientist, at the very beginning of his time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I came to him hoping I could expand my research experience into new areas, and he accepted me into the lab, even though I was pregnant with twins and soon to take maternity leave. Those years were some of the most exciting I spent in research. He trusted me and allowed me the flexibility to explore new areas of plant biology research (molecular biology and biochemistry) and new experiences such as writing my first grant proposal and co-authoring a book chapter. While I ended up taking my career in a different direction, those years were invaluable in my development as a scientist and an educator. Moreover, not only is Steve incredibly intelligent and prolific, but he is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met in my entire life and definitely the best boss I have ever had.

Xinguang Zhu – Joining Steve and becoming a member of the great Long lab was a most important life-changing event for me, which forever changed my career path. Ever since we met in the morning of Aug 8th, 1999, at the door of Steve’s office, we have never separated. In those golden years in ERML, we tested many exciting ideas for improving photosynthesis for greater efficiency, and this set the stage for later developments and progress. Throughout this work we convinced ourselves, and later the community, that there is great room to improve photosynthesis, rather than the conventional wisdom that photosynthesis is well optimized after billions of years of evolution. It is through these experiences that I came to realize how a single idea can have immense power to change the trajectory of scientific research, technology development, and future large scale applications. I hope the photosynthesis improvement that we have been working on, along with many excellent colleagues globally, for these years will bear fruit in the near future and create its desired impact on global agricultural development. To me, Steve is so much more than his academic achievement; he has been so supportive of me and my family, from the time that I was in Illinois until now. In difficult times, Steve always reaches out without any hesitation to give me confidence and courage to face any difficulty. I will forever love you, Steve.