The highest honor given by the Society for In Vitro Biology is the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented to scientists who are considered pioneers or highly influential researchers to the science and art of cell culture. They are men and women who have devoted their careers to exemplary research and/or teaching. The recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are selected by vote of the Board of Directors from a list of nominations recommended by the Awards Committee. The Society for In Vitro Biology honored Dr. Shirley Pomponi and Dr. Kan Wang with the SIVB Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 2022 In Vitro Biology Meeting. Dr. Wang’s award is highlighted in this issue of the In Vitro Report, and Dr. Pomponi was highlighted in the last issue of the In Vitro Report.
Kan Wang, PhD
2022 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Kan Wang, PhD
Dr. Kan Wang was awarded the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 In Vitro Biology Meeting in San Diego, California. Dr. Wang earned her B.S. degree with a major in Biochemistry from Fudan University (Shanghai, China). With initial sponsorship from the Chinese government and subsequent sponsorship from the Rockefeller Foundation she earned her Ph.D. degree in Biology from Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium) under the supervision of Dr. Marc Van Montagu (2013 World Food Prize Awardee) and the late Dr. Jeff Schnell. After earning her Ph.D., she completed a Postdoctoral fellowship at Ghent University. Dr. Wang’s doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on the molecular mechanisms of T-DNA transfer from Agrobacterium tumefaciens to plant cells, and as part of the research team that discovered and adapted the use of Agrobacterium tumefaciens for plant genetic transformation, she is widely regarded as one of the pioneers in plant biotechnology.
After completing her postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Wang has pursued a career that includes industry, academia, and the National Science Foundation. She worked for 7 years at ICI seeds, which became Syngenta, as a project leader working on the genetic transformation of corn and soybean. Dr. Wang was then appointed as the Director of the newly founded Plant Transformation Facility in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University. The Plant Transformation Facility at Iowa State rose to national prominence due to their innovative research program for transforming corn and soybean. Dr. Wang has held several administrative and academic positions at Iowa State University. She currently is a Professor and Global Professor in the Department of Agronomy and serves as Co-Director of the Crop Bioengineering Center. Since 2021, Dr. Wang has served at the National Science Foundation as Program Director for Plant Genome Research Projects, and, in this role, she leads a team to determine the types of research that is prioritized for funding and establishes the research agenda for the call for proposals.
Dr. Wang has made and continues to make significant contributions in plant biotechnology, and she is considered a world leader in plant genetic transformation. As the Director of the Plant Transformation Facility at Iowa State University, she has made major contributions to the plant science community. The Plant Transformation Facility was recognized as a world leader in transformation of corn and soybeans and this facility served over 200 research groups from 125 institutions and 17 countries. Dr. Wang’s research program at Iowa State University continues to focus on developing novel genetic transformation technologies for crop improvement. A few of her accomplishments include the following:
- Her research in the area of nanobiotechnology is recognized as a major milestone in plant science (http://milestones.aspb.org/)
- Her methods book titled “Agrobacterium Protocols” (ed Kan Wang) is considered an invaluable resource for labs performing genetic transformation
- Her patent on soybean transformation and regeneration using half plant explants (US Patent #7,473,822, January 6, 2009) is highly cited by those working in plant transformation.
Her current innovative research focuses on identifying new strategies to overcome limitations to genetic engineering by using growth promoting genes to supplement traditional hormone treatments. Dr. Wang has published 94 peer-reviewed original publications, 26 book chapters, 3 proceedings, 3 books, and has been granted 4 patents. She has contributed to plant biotechnology through her dedicated service as an Associate Editor for the following peer-reviewed journals: The Plant Genome, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Frontiers in Genome Editing, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Plant Cell Reports, and BMC Plant Biology.
Since joining Iowa State University, Dr. Wang has played an important role in training future scientists by serving as a research mentor for undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting international scholars. She is a graduate faculty member of the following four interdepartmental/interdisciplinary graduate programs at Iowa State University: Interdepartmental Plant Biology Major; Interdisciplinary Genetics Major; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Program; and Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Program. She served as the Director of Graduate Education for the interdepartmental Plant Biology major and played an instrumental role in updating the curriculum. Dr. Wang also served as the Director for the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduate Students Program at Iowa State University. The majority of students working in her lab have gone on to graduate school, professional school, or careers in science. Overall, she has mentored 20 PhD/MS students and 21 postdoctoral fellows, served on 29 graduate student committees, supervised 44 research staff members, trained 41 undergraduates, and 18 visiting scholars.
Dr. Wang has received several honors and awards in recognition of her service and outstanding contributions to plant biotechnology. She is the recipient of the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) Distinguished Service Award 3 times, and a recipient of the SIVB Fellow Award. She is the recipient of the following awards from Iowa State University: Iowa Women of Innovation Award on Research Innovation and Leadership, Iowa State University Award for Achievement in intellectual Property, Iowa State University – College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Achievement in Research Award, and the Iowa State University Outstanding Achievement in Research Award. Dr. Wang is also an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has supported the Society for In Vitro Biology as a Member-at-Large of the Board of Directors (2018-2022) and Awards Committee Chair (2014-2016).
The Society for In Vitro Biology congratulates Dr. Kan Wang as a recipient of the 2022 SIVB Lifetime Achievement Award. To learn more about Dr. Kan Wang’s impressive career and scientific accomplishments please watch the video of a recent interview with Dr. Wang that was conducted by Dr. Todd Jones and Dr. Wayne Parrott.
Submitted by Michael J. Fay
The Award nomination packet submitted by Drs. Wayne Parrott, Todd Jones, Peggy Ozias-Akins, and James Birchler was used as the source of information for this article.