BTI’s Greg Martin Elected to National Academy of Sciences

by | May 5, 2022

A medium close up shot of Greg Martin holding a small tomato plant in a green pot.

Greg Martin examines some plants in a growth chamber at BTI. Image credit: Boyce Thompson Institute.

Greg Martin, Boyce Schulze Downey Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute and Professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) at Cornell University, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Martin is one of 150 new members announced on May 3. The organization recognizes his distinguished and continuing achievements in original plant science research, specifically for furthering the understanding of plant–microbe interactions.

At BTI, researchers in Martin’s lab study the molecular basis of bacterial pathogenesis and the plant immune system. The long-term goal of his research is to use knowledge gained about the molecular basis of plant–pathogen interactions to develop plants with enhanced natural resistance to diseases.

“In our world of discovery research, being elected to the National Academy of Sciences is a significant and rare honor,” said BTI President David Stern. “As one of our most respected faculty, and as someone who has systematically and dramatically increased our understanding of plant–microbe interactions, Greg is most deserving of this professional recognition.”

The Martin lab primarily focuses on speck disease of tomato, which is caused by infection of the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. Speck disease is an economically important disease that can decrease the yield and quality of tomatoes, and is also an excellent experimental system for studying the molecular mechanisms that underlie plant–pathogen interactions.

In the 1990’s, Martin developed methods for using genetic linkage maps to isolate genes from tomato and cloned the Pto gene, which confers immunity to bacterial speck disease. In 2021, his lab discovered a new gene, Ptr1, that helps protect tomatoes from another type of speck-causing P. syringae.

“It is a great honor to receive this recognition of the research done in my lab over the past 30 years by a series of talented graduate students, postdocs, undergraduates and research assistants,” said Martin. “I have been fortunate to have a joint appointment at BTI and Cornell, and I have benefited greatly from the collegiality, collaborative spirit and broad scientific expertise that is a hallmark of both institutions.”

Text that says: “As one of our most respected faculty, and as someone who has systematically and dramatically increased our understanding of plant–microbe interactions, Greg is most deserving of this honor.” – David SternMartin earned his doctorate in genetics from Michigan State University in 1989. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in Steve Tanksley’s lab at Cornell University, he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University in 1992, rising to Associate Professor in 1996. In 1998, he accepted a joint appointment at BTI and in Cornell’s Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. Martin was named Boyce Schulze Downey Professor at BTI in 2005.

Martin was awarded a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in 1995 and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004) and American Academy of Microbiology (2005). He received the Noel Keen Award for Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology from the American Phytopathological Society in 2010.

The NAS is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Currently, it has about 2,400 active members and 500 foreign associates. The NAS recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and—with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine—provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

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