Testimonials for Pioneer Member Thomas Sharkey

Carlo Calfapietra – Tom Sharkey, working on the biology of plants and on the interactions of plants with the atmosphere, represents a crucial milestone for scientists like me. When I arrived at Tom’s lab, I was still a young post-doc with a lot of doubts regarding how the photosynthesis of plants works and how emission of VOCs is influenced by abiotic factors. When I left Tom’s lab, I had clarified my original doubts, but a lot of questions were raised thanks to Tom’s incredible curiosity, which was also transmitted to me. I left Tom’s lab with one certainty: research on plants would become the job of my life.

Xiuyin Chen – Tom Sharkey is not only a pioneering plant scientist, but was also a wonderful mentor. I worked in Tom’s lab as a research specialist for about a year and a half. Tom was very encouraging and helpful to me. I still remembered the Thanksgiving dinner at his house more than 20 years ago. Thanks for the chance to learn and grow in your laboratory, Tom!

Eunsoo Kim – Tom Sharkey was my PhD co-supervisor, alongside Prof. Linda Graham. Although my doctoral dissertation ended up originating from the work I did in the Graham lab due to my inclination towards algal evolutionary and diversity studies at that time, Tom provided support for my research and training throughout my graduate study, and even after my graduation as a letter writer. Tom Sharkey is a great scholar and teacher; his excitement about the work he did was palpable and there was great rigor in his approach to research. As someone who grew up in a culture where serving society was considered a virtue and pursuit of personal interest was not, I had a memorable awakening moment when Tom told me he was motivated to do research out of his deep curiosity and interest in understanding the process of photosynthesis. Wow, I was so relieved to hear that from an established scholar, because back then I was having a bit of difficulty when confronted by my biology peers or acquaintances with the same cultural background as mine, who placed more value in following what is regarded as mainstream or “more important.” Outside of work, Tom is a warm-hearted person who finds joy and fun in mingling with people and in other mundane and not-so-mundane activities. When coming across challenges as a lab head, I wish I could be half as good as Tom (or Linda). He is a good reminder that there are great people in the world.

Francesco Loreto – Professor Sharkey helped shape my entire professional career. There is no other person to whom I owe more for teaching me how to do scientific research and achieve a successful career as a professor. From the time I joined Tom’s laboratory in Madison as a young postdoc to currently, I have known Tom as a mentor and friend I could count on. This tribute is small in comparison with what I reeived from Tom, and I expresses my ever-lasting gratitude to a great scientist and a great person.

Yan Lu – I was a Ph.D. student in Tom’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom is one of the greatest mentors and teachers one could ever have. He is kind, patient, encouraging, and he deeply cares for his students and postdocs and their careers deeply. One important aspect of Tom’s interactions with students is his ability to provide just the right amount of guidance, yet allow the student some independence. Tom always puts his students’ interests and careers ahead of his own interests and concerns. In conclusion, Tom profoundly influenced the careers of his students and postdocs, including me.

Andreas Weber – My research stint in Tom’s lab was crucial to my career as a scientist and a faculty member.

Sarathi Weraduwage – I feel very fortunate to have Tom as a mentor and an advisor in my academic life. I have been carrying out research on photosynthesis as well as isoprene with Tom, and I have found Tom to be an extraordinary scientist. I am always inspired by how he approaches scientific questions with so much curiosity, enthusiasm and fascination. He always encourages us to ask the big questions. Despite having a tremendous amount of administrative responsibilities, Tom always makes time to come and chat with each person in the lab. He always made sure that I have ample opportunities to carryout collaborative research and paved the way towards my academic and career advancement. Tom also gives me his fullest support to carry out departmental service and outreach work, for which I am truly grateful. Thank you Tom for helping me grow as a scientist and for your tremendous dedication and contributions towards photosynthesis and isoprene research.

Ru Zhang – Tom is not only an outstanding scientist in photosynthesis but also a wonderful mentor. As my PhD advisor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, he brought me into the fantastic world of photosynthesis and taught me how to be a great scientist. Here are some words Tom told me during my PhD: “Your success is my success”; “You want to challenge yourself enough before submitting your manuscript to a journal’’; “It does not matter who is right or wrong, I just want to know the scientific truth”. With his mentoring, encouragement, and support, I became a confident, independent researcher, and began to take great satisfaction in my work. By the time I finished my PhD in the Sharkey lab, I was very passionate about photosynthesis and would love to learn more about this process and move further along this path.  Even after I graduated from the Sharkey lab, Tom continued to support my career and provide advice when I needed. I feel very lucky to have Tom as my PhD advisor and career mentor. Thank you so much, Tom!