Dick Staples came to BTI in 1950. A graduate student in Plant Biochemistry at Columbia University, BTI provided a laboratory and other research facilities. There were four graduate students then; they shared a converted ladies room off the library on the second floor. Later that year, Staples was recalled to active duty in the Navy during the Korean War, but returned in 1952 to complete his PhD degree in 1957. Dick’s thesis dealt with carbon metabolism of uredospores of the bean rust fungus, and it became a life work. At BTI, Staples studied the physiology, metabolism, and cell biology of fungi. This had translated in research experience to studies on the development of pathogenicity traits by fungal pathogens, especially the rust fungi, but has also included Botrytis cinerea and Metarhizium anisopliae. The research involved the cloning of genes for the sensory perception of signals on the substratum responsible for triggering mitosis and appressorium development by the urediospore germling of Uromyces appendiculatus, and the development of cell biology tools for the study of appressorium development.
Staples stopped research at BTI in 1992, when he retired as the G.L. McNew Scientist, Emeritus, but he continued working in Harvey Hoch’s lab at the Geneva Agricultural Research Station until 1999. He served from 1981- 1982 as a Policy Analyst in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President. From 1982 to 1983, Staples was a recipient of a “Senior US Scientist” award from the Alexander von Humbolt Foundation, and worked in Aachen, Germany, for a year. A paper he published in 1983 that reported on a family of differentiation specific genes in the rust fungi was awarded “Citation Classic” by Science Citation Index. In 1984, Dick was elected a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society. The society also gave him the Ruth Allen Award, in 1994, for the discovery with Harvey Hoch, of the signal ridge on the stomatal guard cell that informs most rust fungi where to develop the appressorium for colonization of their host plants.
Dick served as a Receiving Editor of FEMS Microbiology Letters from 1994-2011. Dick resigned in 2011 from his role as Reviews Editor, FEMS Microbiology Letters. Each year he gives occasional lectures at the Department of Plant Pathology where he is an Adjunct Professor, and he writes invited reviews.