Campus News

Plant biologist is named inaugural SURA Distinguished Scientist

Susan R. Wessler, Regents Professor of Plant Biology at UGA, will receive the first Distinguished Scientist Award from the Southeastern Universities Research Association. The award, from the consortium of more than 60 leading research institutions in the southern U.S., honors a research scientist whose extraordinary work fulfills the SURA mission of fostering excellence in scientific research. The award and $20,000 honorarium will be presented to Wessler on April 17.

 Wessler came to UGA in 1983 after earning her Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cornell University and serving as a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society at the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore. She rose from assistant professor of botany to a Regents Professor—the first woman to hold that title at the university—in 2005.

Upon her arrival at UGA, she was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health and has successfully competed for grant renewals for almost a quarter of a century.

This has helped Wessler leverage the reputation of her laboratory to attract a cohort of world-class plant genetics faculty and to secure a leadership role for the University of Georgia in this field of study.

“Her impact on the scientific community at the University of Georgia cannot be overestimated. During her 24 years at the university she has had 19 major grants funded for almost $16 million,” wrote David Lee, UGA’s vice president for research, in his letter nominating Wessler.

“Dr. Wessler is a consummate ­professor who is ­passionately committed to communicating the excitement of scientific research to her students,” he also wrote. “She has risen rapidly through the ranks while raising a family and never shirking her local, national and international responsibilities.”

“It is a great honor to receive the first SURA Distinguished Scientist Award,” said Wessler. “Like everything in scientific research, this award reflects the hard work of many researchers who have worked in my laboratory including the graduate students, postdoctoral associates and technical assistants.

“It is also a reflection of the continued support I have received from my faculty colleagues and administrators of the University of Georgia,” she added.