UGA plant biologist Susan Wessler named holder of first University of Georgia Foundation Chair

UGA plant biologist Susan Wessler named holder of first University of Georgia Foundation Chair in the Biological Sciences

Athens, Ga. – Susan R. Wessler, Regents Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia, has been named to the first University of Georgia Foundation Chair in the Biological Sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Her new position takes effect pending approval by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

Wessler, one of UGA’s most-honored faculty members, was a Distinguished Research Professor before becoming Regents Professor. She is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, having received a grant of $1 million to develop innovative undergraduate teaching methods at UGA.

As holder of the new chair, Wessler will receive additional funding that she may use to support her scholarship.

“I am deeply honored to be chosen as the first UGA Foundation Chair inBiology,” said Wessler. “I thank those who are responsible for its establishment.”

Wessler has been internationally recognized for her work in molecular biology and genetics. She is best known for her studies of transposable elements in plant genomes and of their contributions to gene and genome evolution. In addition, Wessler is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Dr. Wessler has demonstrated excellence during her tenure at the University of Georgia in all functions, and her accomplishments are superb,” said Arnett C. Mace, Jr., UGA senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “This chair is a highly deserved recognition of her expertise in instruction, research, graduate education, service to UGA and her profession and a multitude of contributions.”

UGA Vice President for Research David Lee agreed.

“Sue is one of the top plant geneticists in the world and thus adds measurably to the overall distinction of our faculty,” said Lee. “She is also an uncompromising advocate for excellence and is fiercely committed to enhancing research and teaching as well as the integration of these two activities at UGA. She is a terrific role model for all of our students but in particular women who are interested in careers in science.”

Lee’s comments were echoed by Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“I can think of no one more deserving for this honor than Sue Wessler,” said Stokes. “I am so pleased that we are able to honor her many outstanding achievements.”

Wessler was born in New York City in 1953. She is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and received her bachelor’s degree in 1974 in biology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cornell University in 1980 and was a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society at the Carnegie Institution of Washington department of embryology from 1980 to 1982.

“Susan Wessler is one of the university’s truly outstanding faculty leaders and we could not be more pleased to have her as the first holder of this chair.She is most deserving and it is an honor for the foundation to provide funding to make it a reality,” said Bill Young, Jr., chairman of the University of Georgia Foundation.”Ioffer my heartfelt thanks to our donors who, through their continued generosity, help to enhance the University of Georgia’s academic mission.”

Wessler is co-author of The Mutants of Maize (Cold Spring Harbor Press) and of more than 100 research articles. She is one of the principle authors of Introduction to Genetic Analysis (9th ed.), the leading textbook used in introductory genetics courses in colleges and universities throughout the world. In addition, she is an associate editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As holder of the new UGA Foundation Chair in the Biological Sciences, Wessler will relinquish her title as Regents Professor.

“It is especially fitting that Sue has been named the first UGA [Foundation] chair in biological sciences,” said Michelle Momany, head of the department of plant biology. “Her entire remarkable career has been at UGA, and we are very proud of her many accomplishments.”

The University of Georgia Foundation administers approximately $676 million in total assets, which annually provides more than $30 million each year for academic endeavors such as endowed chairs, scholarships and other vital needs at the University of Georgia.

Wessler is the mother of two daughters, one a recent graduate of UGA.