Rice University plant biologist elected to nation’s elite scientific academy
Rice University biochemist and plant biologist Bonnie Bartel has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences — one of the highest honors that can be conferred upon a U.S. scientist.
Bartel is the Ralph and Dorothy Looney Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in Rice’s Department of BioSciences. Her groundbreaking research in plant biology has led to a new and deeper understanding of how plants produce and use hormones and how they sequester oxidative metabolism in subcellular compartments known as peroxisomes.
“Election to the National Academy of Sciences is one of the very highest honors that we bestow on scientists,” said Rice Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. “Dr. Bartel is a stunning example of the intellectual depth and breadth that is expected among NAS members. She is an outstanding scientist, a gifted teacher, and provides enormous service to Rice and the wider scientific community. We are so very happy to see her recognized in this important way.”
Bartel joined Rice’s faculty in 1995. Her lab uses tools from genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. Internationally, she is best known for her work in fundamental areas of plant biology — the regulation of the growth hormone auxin, the presence and functions of plant microRNAs and the roles and dynamics of peroxisomes, but at Rice she is equally recognized as an award-winning mentor. Bartel has led the Biochemistry and Cell Biology graduate program since 2010 and has directed 16 Ph.D. students in her own lab. She also has served as research adviser to 90 Rice undergraduates, 23 of whom have co-authored peer-reviewed research articles in her lab.
“I am deeply honored to be recognized by my colleagues in the National Academy of Sciences,” said Bartel, one of 84 new members announced May 3 by the academy. “It has been a privilege to do science with the amazing graduate students, postdocs and undergraduates who have worked with me at Rice over the years, and the support of my wonderful colleagues in the Department of BioSciences has made it possible.”
Like animals, plants sequester many oxidative reactions in cellular compartments known as peroxisomes. Bartel’s current group specializes in finding and exploring the genes involved in building, maintaining and destroying these essential cellular compartments. She has authored or co-authored more than 90 peer-reviewed studies, commentaries and book chapters. She is a past member of the board of directors of the Genetics Society of America and a current member of the board of trustees of the American Society of Plant Biologists.
She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013 and is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Plant Biologists. Bartel’s mentoring was recognized in 2011 with Rice’s Presidential Mentoring Award; her teaching received recognition in 2006 when she was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professor and awarded a $1 million HHMI grant to build new programs at Rice that integrate undergraduate teaching with research.
Bartel earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Bethel College and her doctorate in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as a postdoctoral researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., prior to joining Rice as an assistant professor.
The National Academy of Sciences was created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and is one of four organizations that make up the National Academies, along with the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Research Council. All are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter.
Other current Rice faculty members who have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences include Robert Curl, Naomi Halas, Herbert Levine, K.C. Nicolaou, José Onuchic, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Peter Rossky, Moshe Vardi and Peter Wolynes.