Plant Biology 2020 Symposium: We are Changing The World! Mary Clutter‘s Impacts on Plant Biology Organizers

Plant Biology Worldwide Summit: July 27–31

The ASPB has a proud history of bringing the plant science community together. This year, although we can’t meet in person, we will come together online for #plantbio20, The Plant Biology Worldwide Summit 2020, which will be held online July 27–31, 2020. This symposium (listed in the schedule as “Science on the Leading Edge”) is currently scheduled for 10 AM–12:40 PM ET on Friday July 31st, with a re-broadcast 8–10:45 PM, but please check the schedule for updates at

Machi Dilworth and Joe Ecker will take the opportunity to celebrate the life and values of Mary Clutter with a plenary delightfully titled “We are changing the world!” Clutter, who passed away in 2019, was a tireless and influential advocate for sound science, creative ideas, and women investigators across her five-decade-long career. Dilworth and Ecker are honoring those principles with a diverse slate of speakers across disciplines, backgrounds and career levels.

“Every speaker represents not only the discipline but one of Mary’s passions,” says Dilworth, a longtime friend and mentee of Clutter. Dilworth is currently vice president for gender equality and human resource development at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.

Those speakers include Natalie Clark, a USDA postdoctoral fellow at Iowa State University, who will present a talk entitled “Using gene regulatory networks to uncover novel regulators in plant biology”. As a mathematical modeler devoting her tools to plant gene networks, Clark exemplifies Clutter’s advocacy of interdisciplinary work in the plant sciences, promotion of early career scientists and advocacy for research at the USDA.

Other speakers include Zachary Lippman, professor and HHMI investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Awarded a 2019 MacArthur genius grant for his applications of CRISPR in the plant sciences, Lippman will speak about using genome editing to improve crops in a talk entitled “Dissecting quantitative trait variation and pleiotropy in evolution and crop improvement by genome editing”. “Mary really liked new technology,” says Dilworth. “Anytime she would be asked to give a talk, she’d give her top ten lists of what would be happening in the future, and there was always a new technology in there.”

The session ends with talks by Maria Harrison and Chris Somerville. A professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute, Harrison will share her work on how fungi and plants collaborate to form a whole greater than the sum of their parts. Somerville, well known for helping establish Arabidopsis as a model organism, has also been a leader in biofuels and applying philanthropy to the natural sciences and will speak on “Finding Research Opportunities”.

So where’d the unusual session name come from?

“When Mary saw something amazing happening, be it a completely new field opening up or some big change happening, she would whisper to me, ‘Machi, we are changing the world!’” recalls Dilworth. “That stuck in us, and we see these speakers as representing the fact that she in many ways did change the world.”

Please join us online for this terrific symposium! Follow #PlantBio20 on Twitter and check the website for updates!

Post by Eric Hamilton for Peridot Scientific Communications.

Leave a Comment