James R. Aist
James R. Aist was born in Cheverly, MD, and grew up in Arkansas. He matriculated at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, in 1962 and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a combined major in botany and bacteriology in 1966. He continued his education, as an NSF Graduate Fellow, at the University of Arkansas, where he received an M.S. degree in plant pathology in 1968. It was here that he began his studies of the nuclear behavior of plant-pathogenic fungi. He pursued further graduate training as an NSF Graduate Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he obtained a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1971. During this time, Dr. Aist became interested in the biology of fungal pathogens of plants and plant disease resistance mechanisms. His paper on the method of plant cell penetration by Plasmodiophora brassicae is a modern classic that set a standard of high quality, accuracy, and detail for future cytological studies. With a postdoctoral fellowship from NATO, he conducted a freeze-fracture study of host-pathogen membrane interfaces at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
Returning to the United States, Dr. Aist began a career in research and teaching in the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Following his appointment as assistant professor in 1972, he was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and professor in 1986. At Cornell, Dr. Aist continued his research in the areas of fungal cell biology and cellular mechanisms of plant disease resistance. He made major contributions to our understanding of nuclear motility and mitosis in plant-pathogenic fungi and elucidated much of what is known about papilla formation as a disease resistance mechanism.
Dr. Aist has published extensively, with 66 original research articles and 13 review articles to his credit. His research is characterized by the application of state-of-the-art technologies to plant pathology and mycology, including freeze-etching and -substitution, acoustic and video microscopy, microspectrophotometry, computer-assisted 3D serialsection reconstruction, laser microbeam microsurgery, and laserinduced optical traps. He is currently teaching Introductory Mycology, a course in fungal biology. Eight graduate students have received advanced degrees under his guidance.
The consistent quality of Dr. Aist’s research is attested to by the 15 federal grants awarded to him over the past 23 years. He has been asked to organize or coorganize eight national or international symposia and has presented more than 60 invited lectures and seminars at conferences, congresses, and universities around the world. Dr. Aist is recognized as a world authority on both the cytology of fungi and the cellular mechanisms of plant disease resistance.
Dr. Aist has also been active in professional and community service. He has been an associate editor of Phytopathology and Experimental Mycology and has served on several APS committees. He is the faculty advisor for three student organizations at Cornell, including the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. Dr. Aist’s contributions to the community include church and para-church leadership.