IS-MPMI > COMMUNITY > Interactions > Posts > InterStellar: Interview with 2022 APS Fellow Honoree Dr. Steve Whitham
Sep 20
InterStellar: Interview with 2022 APS Fellow Honoree Dr. Steve Whitham

Dr. Steve Whitham (center) is named an APS Fellow, with Dr. Mark Gleason (left) and APS Immediate Pa​st President Dr. Amy Charkowski (right).

Dr. Steve Whitham​​​

At the Plant Heath 2022 meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, Dr. Steve Whitham, Iowa State University, was named a 2022 Fellow of The American Phytopathological Society. This honor recognizes distinguished contributions to plant pathology in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and extension and outreach.​

Q1. What area(s) of molecular plant–microbe interactions do you feel your research has impacted most?

Maybe four different areas: NBS-LRR resistance genes; host–virus interactions, especially from the host response perspective; host–rust fungus interactions, from both the host response side and characterization of candidate effector proteins; and engineering viruses for doing useful things in crop species.

Q2. What advice do you have for young scientists aspiring to achieve the level of science that has a major impact?

Find questions that excite you and that address important gaps in the field, keep an open mind to new ideas and areas of research and try to make connections to how they can be applied to your project(s), and seek out collaborators who complement your skill set and expertise. Develop your soft skills, learn how to work effectively in teams, and try to find a good work–life balance.​

Q3. When you were a postdoc, what had the largest influence on your decision to enter your specific research area in your permanent position? Was this a "hot topic" at the time, or did you choose to go in a different direction?

At the time I was a postdoc, the mechanisms of gene silencing were being sorted out, and the concept of virus-induced gene silencing as a fast-forward genetics approach was developed. This coincided with the first plant genomes becoming available and the development of microarray technologies for genome-wide mRNA transcript profiling, as well as proteomics. The confluence of these developments got me very interested in functional genomics and how these approaches could be applied to help us to understand the networks of genes that underlie plant–pathogen interactions.

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