Testimonials for Pioneer Member Stephen Long

Bethany and Frank Dohleman – Not only has Steve been a pioneer in applying photosynthesis research to improving cropping systems, he has also been an incredible teacher and mentor to hundreds of students, postdocs and junior faculty. He has done so with a quiet demeanor, impeccable professionalism, and an unwavering commitment toward rigorous science moving out of the lab and into the field where it can ultimately be useful for society. Thank you Steve, for your mentorship and for giving students, who may not have otherwise had it, a chance.

Steven M. Driever – I have been very fortunate to have worked for Dr. Long and his lab as a post-doc. The work, collaboration and atmosphere in his lab were second to none. Dr. Long is not only an excellent scientist, but also an outstanding mentor. Despite his very busy schedule, he devotes time to each lab member to discuss work and coach young scientists in their career. For me, this has been an important step in my career that resulted in a position as an assistant professor. Dr. Long is an inspiration and role model to me, as an excellent scientist and a leader. I would like to thank Dr. Long for his important contributions to the field and for the positive impact he has made to the lives and careers of many young scientists.

Emily Heaton – Steve is emblematic of a pioneering plant biologist. His scientific contributions are manifold as indicated by his myriad well-deserved commendations. What is less clear from his litany of awards and honors, however, is that Steve is a genuinely wonderful human. In a time of growing awareness that great papers, grants, and awards don’t automatically make you a great colleague or advisor, I think it important to explicitly state that Steve is both of those things and more. Steve leads (and pushes) with kindness. His humility humbles. His blinks are worth a thousand words. His pursuit and acquisition of knowledge is endless. His scientific rigor is beyond reproach. He dreams with abandon. I was blessed to be a member of the Long lab, and while it is certainly true that having “S.P. Long” as my advisor opened many professional doors for me, it is also true that it gave me a family that still opens doors for each other today, even when we are decades or miles apart. We learned that from Steve’s example. I am delighted that Steve will be recognized as a Pioneer of ASPB. His scientific legacy echoes as loudly through the generations of plant biologists he lovingly trained as it does through his gazillion citations.

Graham Hymus – I first met Steve as a Masters student at Essex University. Steve’s crash course in the theory and practice of leaf gas-exchange and a return ticket to the Swiss FACE facility set me up specifically for the production of a Masters thesis, but more importantly provided my first real insights into plant ecophysiology. With my interest stimulated a PhD followed under Steve’s supervision, during which I benefitted immeasurably from his expertise and passion for sharing it, and the breath of cutting-edge research he was involved in. During subsequent post-doctoral research and ultimately a career in industry Steve has remained a valued colleague and friend, always willing to provide guidance and insights. A career in plant science was not on my radar prior to meeting Steve. I suspect that might be true for many who have encountered him over the years and who now consider themselves lucky that they did.

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.

Johannes Kromdijk – I am delighted to write this testimonial on behalf of both Ank and myself. It’s hard to overstate the impact Steve had on both of our careers. Initially, coming to join him and the RIPE project in Illinois was a big decision for us, but after our visit in cold and snowy Feb 2012, I just couldn’t pass on the massive opportunity. Fortunately, Ank felt the same, and she still has fond memories of several of the projects with which she ended up being involved. Aside from all the fun science that could be done in Steve’s group, the warm atmosphere in the group and personal connections that he and his team built with each other was an important reason to take the plunge. In terms of what his mentoring has meant for my career development (and still does), I can’t even think of where to start. Having a few years of work experience after my PhD meant that I had some clear ideas about what I wanted to get out of my postdoctoral position, but I ended up getting so much more. The clarity of Steve’s research vision is what we all aspire to every day and several of the insights he shared with me in the context of, for instance, a set of new results, draft manuscripts, potential new research directions, or job applications (when it got to that stage), I still apply very regularly. And both Ank and I got to experience Steve’s seemingly unlimited energy, especially at conferences (and ARPA-E summits). We were very fortunate that the time spent in his group also became a stepping stone for Ank when she ended up becoming part of CABBI management until my job in Cambridge had to drag her away again. To conclude, I can’t think of a more deserving Pioneer and we are very happy to contribute.

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.

Alistair Rogers – Steve’s research, leadership, and advocacy for plant biology at all levels has been incredible to see. As a graduate student,I used to marvel at the number of things Steve successfully juggled. Perhaps fueled by the ridiculous volume of coffee he drank, he always seemed to have extra capacity for new projects. This meant that contact time with Steve was limited and precious. When you received guidance or criticism—mumbled ever so softly—it was always highly constructive and supportive, and often transformational. It’s been wonderful to see Steve get thoroughly deserved recognition for his many accomplishments. Steve made you feel part of those successes, and he was always quick to acknowledge the work of his students and post-docs and promote their work. I was, and still am, very proud of my association with Steve, both for his achievements but also the generous, humble, and selfless way he has achieved them. As graduate students, we used to joke about Steve moving us around the world like pieces on a chess board—part of his master plan—but what he was really doing was looking after us; finding new homes for us as our careers progressed, continuing to open doors, and present new opportunities to advance our careers. It has been amazing to see how successful his students and post-docs have become, but also to see the incredible diversity of scientific career paths he has enabled. Steve’s support and mentorship of early career scientists will have an enduring influence on plant biology, and it’s therefore fitting that this recognition will support the training and education of the next generation of scientists. I could not be happier to support Steve’s nomination as a ASPB Pioneer.

Venkatraman Srinivasan – Prof. Steve Long has been an inspiration to many crop scientists around the world. His creativity, dedication, perseverance, and hard work, is contagious to everyone working with him.

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.