Center Devoted to Plant Cell Biology Research Celebrates Ten Years of Growth

Ceremony recognizing top research breakthroughs and key milestones of UC Riverside’s Center for Plant Cell Biology set for Dec. 14

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — When the Center for Plant Cell Biology (CEPCEB) was launched at the University of California, Riverside in 2002, it was home to ten faculty members from three departments on campus.  Ten years later, the center’s membership has grown to 43 scientists from 13 UC Riverside departments, and its reputation has soared, firmly establishing it as one of the world’s top centers devoted to the study of plant cell biology.

On Dec. 14, 2012, UCR will celebrate the center’s first decade in a daylong (9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) ceremony in the Genomics Building on campus, followed by a reception in the lobby.  More than 100 researchers will attend the celebration and participate in a special symposium aimed at recognizing the center’s significant achievements and discussing the latest research being conducted in the field of plant cell biology.

Photo shows Natasha Raikhel.

Natasha Raikhel, a distinguished professor of plant cell biology, has served as the director of UC Riverside’s Center for Plant Cell Biology since 2002. Photo credit: L. Duka.

During the ceremony, Julia Bailey-Serres, a longtime CEPCEB member and a professor of genetics in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, will be named CEPCEB’s new director.  Starting Jan. 1, 2013, she will succeed Natasha Raikhel, a distinguished professor of plant cell biology, who has served as CEPCEB’s director since its inception.

The university recruited Raikhel, one of the most highly-cited researchers in plant science, in 2001 to lead the new center.  Within months, Raikhel hired key personnel — such as David Carter, Thomas Girke, Songqin Pan and Glenn Hicks — to coordinate and manage the center’s state-of-the-art core instrumentation facilities that offer an integrated system of instruments allowing for chemical genomics research on plants and the analysis of unprecedented quantities of information yielded from genome and protein sequencing.

“People love and enjoy plants but do not often remember how essential plants are for our well being and health and for a sustainable global environment,” said Raikhel, who holds the Ernst and Helen Leibacher Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular, Cell Biology & Genetics and is the director of the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology within which CEPCEB is housed.  “Plants can live without us, but we cannot live without plants!  We know a lot at the genetic level about the way plants develop and respond and adapt to environmental conditions. But we know very little about what is happening on a cellular level to proteins in live cells during development or in response to different environmental conditions — knowledge that is critical to addressing the challenges we face with the increasing worldwide demand for food, global warming, and biofuel production.”

Under Raikhel’s leadership, CECEB grew from an idea of interdisciplinary collaborative research to a world-leading center of plant sciences and genome research.  It was largely due to her efforts that the center succeeded in hiring excellent scientists to build a strong, cohesive and integrative research program in plant cell biology, quickly making UCR an internationally recognized center for plant cell biology and plant biology.  Within a matter of years, the center enjoyed a unique niche in the field of plant biology, having effectively integrated computation biology, proteomics and chemical genomics to investigate key questions in plant biology.

In the past ten years, CEPCEB achieved several milestones, a few of which are:

“I have been always amazed how quickly CEPCEB put Riverside on the map of world-class plant science,” said Jiri Friml, a professor in the Department of Plant Systems Biology at the University of Ghent, Belgium.  “How from modest beginnings it suddenly rose to one of the very best plant centers world-wide with the amazing assembly of talented researchers pushing the frontiers in their various areas.”

Friml refers to the many scientific breakthroughs by CEPCEB members, such as:

Photo shows Julia Bailey-Serres.

Starting Jan. 1, 2013, Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics, will be the director of UC Riverside’s Center for Plant Cell Biology. Photo credit: L. Duka.

“CEPCEB has created a highly collegiate and supportive research environment, such that scientists are nurtured in their ideas and encouraged to be imaginative in their research,” said Cathie R. Martin, a group leader at the John Innes Centre and a professor at the University of East Anglia, the United Kingdom.  “From this comes true innovation and creative energy.”

CEPCEP researchers have won numerous awards and honors.  Currently, the center is home to two members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, three recipients of the Charles Albert Shull Award, two winners of the Stephen Hales Prize, three fellows of the American Society of Plant Biologists, and four recipients of the National Science Foundation CAREER Awards.

“Just about every day I see vibrant groups of CEPCEB scientists discussing their discoveries, inquiries and collaborations in the Genomics Building,” Raikhel said.  “That’s when I feel that what I dreamed of achieving when CEPCEB was founded ten years ago is a reality.  It makes me very happy and proud of all our talented and driven scientists and educators.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6050
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Additional Contacts

Jocelyn Brimo, CEPCEB
Tel: (951) 827-2152

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