Lehman College Biological Sciences Professor Eleanore Wurtzel has been named as a Fellow in the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) for her work on carotenoid biosynthesis, which aims to eliminate Vitamin A deficiency, a leading cause of blindness and increased mortality among children in the developing world.
She is one of five scientists who will receive the award — the highest honor in this field — in July at the Society’s annual meeting in Texas.
The Fellow of ASPB Award is granted for distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology, and for service to society. Dr. Wurtzel’s work has contributed to the understanding of the processes regulating carotenoid accumulation in cereal crops, primarily maize. Carotenoids are nutritionally important compounds that are manufactured in plants and needed by humans as a source of vitamin A. Her international team of scientists is conducting basic research needed to develop maize and other crops that are rich in the vitamin.
“My lab has conducted research to provide healthier food as a sustainable solution for eliminating vitamin A deficiency in 200 million children worldwide,” says Dr. Wurtzel. Her work is supported by over $7 million in funding from such organizations as the National Institutes of Health, the Rockefeller Foundation International Rice Biotechnology Program, McKnight Foundation Plant Biology program, the American Cancer Society and the National Science Foundation.
“This important research was accomplished,” she added, “through the hard work of my many CUNY Ph.D. students in plant sciences, molecular biology, and biochemistry, as well as postdocs, visiting scientists, undergraduates, and local high school students.”
“I am very pleased that Dr. Wurtzel has been recognized on a national scale for her work,” says Dr. Edward Jarroll, dean of Lehman’s School of Natural and Social Sciences. “This work brings honor to her students and to her, and it also brings well-deserved recognition to the sciences here at Lehman.”
Dr. Wurtzel served on the ASPB Minority Affairs Committee from 2004-2010 and created the Diversity Bank that helps to connect ASPB members with underrepresented scientists through research and other scientific opportunities. She also serves as a monitoring editor for the ASPB journal Plant Physiology (2008-2012). Dr. Wurtzel, who joined the Lehman faculty in 1987, earned her bachelor’s in biochemistry and Ph.D. in molecular biology from SUNY Stony Brook, followed by postdoctoral training at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
The ASPB is the leading professional society in the United States that is dedicated to the advancement of plant sciences. It publishes top-ranked journals in the field of plant biology, The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology, and holds regular international conferences that promote the sciences.