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Joanne Chory wins the 2020 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

Joanne Chory

Joanne Chory

Joanne Chory, who pioneered the application of molecular genetics to plant biology and transformed our understanding of photosynthesis, will receive the 2020 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, Rockefeller’s preeminent award recognizing outstanding women scientists. Chory is the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology and director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at The Salk Institute. She is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Frances Beinecke, former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, will present the prize in a virtual ceremony hosted by Rockefeller on October 22.

Chory’s three decades of work with Arabidopsis thaliana, a small mustard plant known as thale cress, renders her one of the most influential plant biologists of her generation. Early in her career, Chory discovered that the DET1 gene was responsible for determining how plants respond to light, a finding that eventually led to her uncovering the entire plant steroid hormone signaling system and the unique roles of brassinosteroid and auxin hormones. More recently, Chory has spearheaded an ambitious effort to combat climate change by optimizing plants’ natural ability to capture and store carbon. As director of the Harnessing Plants Initiative at Salk, she heads a research team working to alter key genetic pathways to produce crop variants with deeper roots that can pull more carbon out of the atmosphere and store it underground. In 2019, Salk received a $35 million award from the TED Audacious Project in support of the initiative.

“From her earliest work, which fundamentally changed researchers’ understanding of plant growth and development, to her groundbreaking efforts to combat climate change, Dr. Chory’s remarkable contributions stand to benefit all life on Earth,” says Michael W. Young, Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Rockefeller, Nobel laureate, and chair of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize selection committee.

The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize was founded by the late Paul Greengard, the Vincent Astor Professor of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at Rockefeller, and his wife, Ursula von Rydingsvard, an internationally renowned sculptor with works in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and other venues. A lifelong advocate for gender equality, Greengard donated his monetary share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Rockefeller and, in partnership with generous supporters, established an annual award to recognize outstanding women scientists. The prize, which includes a $100,000 honorarium, is named for Greengard’s mother, who died during his birth.

Chory is also the recipient of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize and the 2018 Gruber Genetics Prize. She is a member of nine scientific academies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Royal Society.

Register here to attend the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize virtual ceremony and learn more about the award. Registration is free and open to the public.