Campus News

Plant Center marks 30th anniversary with symposium

UGA’s Plant Center marked its 30th anniversary in May with a two-day symposium honoring Joe L. Key, Professor Emeritus of Plant Biology and a former UGA vice president for research.

Key is widely recognized for his pioneering research in plant molecular genetics and for his help in building a dynamic plant sciences community on campus and beyond.

The symposium featured speakers who are working on cutting-edge plant research, including many of Key’s former students, postdocs and colleagues. They discussed a variety of topics related to plant genetics and molecular breeding, areas of research that will play a pivotal role in securing Earth’s limited supplies of food, feed and fuel.

While some of the talk focused on important issues in the field, speakers also shared fond memories and whimsical anecdotes about their time working with Key, who, at the conclusion of the symposium, was presented with the Adolph E. Gude Jr. Award by the American Society of Plant Biologists for his exceptional service to the science and community of plant biology.

Key helped lay the foundation for the Plant Center when he served as director for UGA’s Center for Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology, which was officially registered at UGA in 1986, the same year that he began his 14-year tenure as vice president for research. Its name was shortened to The Plant Center in 1997.

The event also featured a University Signature Lecture by Sir David Baulcombe, Royal Society Research Professor and Regius Professor of Botany at the University of Cambridge. A former postdoc of Key’s, Baulcombe is widely known for his pioneering work on RNA silencing and disease resistance in crops.

Symposium attendees were able to participate in a silent auction organized by current students and postdocs, which raised more than $1,000 for the Joe L. Key endowment fund.

“We hope that we can continue to grow this endowment so that it may one day support a Joe Key graduate fellowship,” said C.J. Tsai, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and current director of the Plant Center.

The symposium was sponsored by the UGA Plant Center; the Office of the Vice President for Research; the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost (State-of-the-Art Conference Program); the Georgia Research Alliance, Monsanto, Agilent and BioNano.