Honoring David Stern’s Leadership

After leading the Boyce Thompson Institute for 17 years, David Stern has decided to step down as president. He will retain the role during the search for his successor, and plans to lead the Stern lab well into the future.

During his tenure, David has overseen BTI’s evolution during the genomic revolution, as sequencing, bioinformatics and engineering technologies have changed the type of plant science research that can be done.  His natural curiosity and openness to take risks have enabled the Institute to remain nimble and act quickly to challenges and opportunities alike. During it all, he maintained a vibrant research laboratory focused on chloroplast biology, bioenergy and nuclear-cytoplasmic interactions, which he has expanded to include applications of these findings that could increase the sustainability of agriculture during this era of climate change.

Please join us in honoring David’s legacy!

A Message From David

Dear Friends:

I joined BTI in January 1989, just out of my postdoc. As time passed, I became more curious about the scientific infrastructure around me: the people, the technology, the external forces that shape our discoveries and change the world. In 2001, I became Vice President of Research, which helped me better understand how BTI functions and evolves. In 2004, I was named BTI’s 8th leader, knowing that I would have much to learn in order to help the institute find its future. 17 years later, it is time for BTI to identify a new leader to seize the challenges and opportunities of BTI’s second century, allowing me to pursue new opportunities. To facilitate a smooth transition, I will remain in my role until the next president arrives, up to three years if needed.

As a new president, I was asked to steer an organization that already had a storied history, a strong sense of familial culture, and freedom to operate, and is also located in a superb academic setting. I’ve seen my most important work as helping BTI develop, affirm and pursue its vision, mission and values, while ensuring that a career at BTI allows for personal and professional growth. I believe that BTI research is best served by seeking and attracting curious, diverse and collaborative scientists, and helping them obtain support for their ideas, particularly for goals that are unconventional, open new areas of study, or have strong potential for societal impact.

Science moves quickly, driven by discoveries, enabling technologies, generational change, curiosity, and the forces of the world around us. BTI defines itself as “nimble,” a way of life that has served us well in times of challenge – not least the COVID pandemic – as well as in times of opportunity. Much of the pleasure of my time as president has derived from the strength, resilience and creativity of the staff and leadership around me. These individuals have been visionary in terms of how we shape and enhance our research, training and outreach programs, and in how we engage with the community and world around us.

As I step away from the presidency, I will remain with the Institute, pursuing research and also looking forward to making other contributions, ones I cannot yet know. No matter what happens, BTI will always own a piece of my heart.

David Stern's Signature


David Stern

Highlighted Messages

Greg Galvin, BTI Board Chair

Greg Galvin

David will be stepping down from the presidency leaving BTI very well positioned for the future. He has nudged the organization onto a path that aligns BTI with how science will be done in the future: collaborative, team-based and with greater breadth of research funding. Under David’s leadership, the Institute has taken on a greater role in plant science nationally, particularly with his contributions to two Decadal Vision reports. He has invested in the future, in both people and research facilities – most notably the new phenotyping facility currently under construction.

Paul Chomet, BTI Board Vice Chair

Paul Chomet

David is always looking to the future and preparing BTI for the ability to change with the times. He continues to think outside the confines of an academic structure. The concepts on how to remain flexible as an organization resulted from David’s leadership in the PSRN scenario planning workshops. Preparing for the future, David has implemented these ideas at BTI, and I believe BTI will be a better institute thanks to these efforts.

Jane Silverthorne, Chair, BTI Scientific Advisory Board

David’s many accomplishments as BTI President are the result of his deep commitment to the organization, its people, and its mission. He has excelled as a leader precisely because he understands that “people do science,” and the job of the President is to enable their success. He steps down as president leaving BTI positioned to continue its well-earned track record in research and innovation – and with the potential to strike out in new directions as the world changes.

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