Plant Geneticist Elected to National Academy of Sciences

With the election of Julia Bailey-Serres, seven UC Riverside faculty members are now members of the prestigious academy

Julia Bailey-Serres in her lab

Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics at the University of California, Riverside, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for her excellence in original scientific research.

Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Bailey-Serres learned of her election today (May 3) during the academy’s 153rd annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Bailey-Serres is being recognized for her role in the discovery and characterization of a gene that allows rice to survive under water. That gene has subsequently been introduced through breeding by the International Rice Research Institute and others, creating flood-tolerant rice varieties that are grown by more than five million farmers in flood-prone areas of Asia.

“Julia’s election and the fact that several other members of our Department of Botany and Plant Sciences are members of the National Academy of Sciences speak to the strength of the department and the fact that it is having a worldwide impact,” said Kathryn Uhrich, dean of UC Riverside’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

Elected along with 84 other new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries, Bailey-Serres brings the number of current UC Riverside faculty elected to the NAS to seven. The others are: Xuemei Chen, Natasha Raikhel, Susan Wessler, James Dieterich, William Jury and Alexander Raikhel.

All seven are faculty members in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Chen, Natasha Raikhel, Wessler and Bailey-Serres are all also part of the university’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and Center for Plant Cell Biology (Bailey-Serres serves as director) and, along with Alexander Raikhel, Institute for Integrative Genome Biology.

Wessler, a distinguished professor of genetics and home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, is impressed with the impact of Bailey-Serres’ research.

“It is very unusual for someone to make a basic science discovery and in such a short period of time see it benefit so many, so quickly,” Wessler said.

Bailey-Serres is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has a Ph.D. from Edinburgh University. She has been a member of the faculty at UC Riverside since 1990.

Her research group studies the sensing, signaling and acclimation responses to low oxygen stress in plants. Her multidisciplinary approach combines genetic, molecular, biochemical and bioinformatic technologies and has significant implications for agricultural and global food challenges.

She has received international attention for her group’s dissection of the mechanistic role of the SUB1A gene in conferring submergence tolerance in rice. Her accomplishments also include the pioneering of methods for profiling the “translatomes” of discrete cell-types of plants and identification of a homeostatic sensor of oxygen deprivation in plants.

The NAS is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the academy has served to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.

There are currently 2,291 active NAS members and 465 foreign associates. Among the NAS’s renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell. Nearly 200 living NAS members have won Nobel Prizes.

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