Horticulture Professor B.W. “Joe” Poovaiah gained international prominence for his pioneering research on calcium/calmodulin-modulated signaling in plants that he initiated when he began his career as a WSU faculty member in 1975.
Over the years, his research has attracted millions of dollars of outside funding from various granting agencies. Along with his research accomplishments, his exemplary teaching and mentoring helped him achieve his new title of Regents Professor.
When Poovaiah started his research virtually nothing was known about the calcium messenger system in plants. “Before 1972, calcium was just another nutrient in plants,” said Carl Leopold, Poovaiah’s former mentor and emeritus professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute of Plant Research at Cornell University.
“Joe originated the realization that calcium served a powerful biochemical function, involving regulatory functions in numerous developmental functions from fruit ripening to growth, senescence and abscission.”
Poovaiah’s research program has revolutionized how scientists view calcium/calmodulin signaling in plants and its regulatory controls.
He is recognized as a world leader in this area of research and his team’s publications in the prestigious journal, Nature, one in 2005 and one in 2006, are considered to be classics which brought international recognition to his research program at WSU.
The 2005 publication in Nature documented the role of calcium and calmodulin in plant growth and the concept of producing size-engineered plants by altering the calcium/calmodulin signaling.
The 2006 publication in Nature documented how calcium/calmodulin signaling is involved in the molecular conversation between plants and microbes, especially bacteria involved in symbiotic nitrogen fixation, an area that is of global agricultural and ecological importance.
His publications have also appeared in other prestigious journals such as Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Poovaiah’s research findings have received global attention and will have a revolutionary impact on agriculture in years to come.
About the awards
The Regents professor promotion honors the highest level of international distinction in the discipline that raises university standards through teaching, scholarship and public service.