Karen-Beth Goldberg Scholthof
Karen-Beth Goldberg Scholthof was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent her formative years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Following 2 years at Colorado College, she completed her B.S. degree at Montana State University. Scholthof obtained her M.S. degree with Myron K. Brakke at the University of Nebraska (1985) and a Ph.D. degree with Robert J. Shepherd at the University of Kentucky (1989). After an NIH post-doctoral fellowship with Andrew O. Jackson at the University of California, Berkeley, she joined Texas A&M University (TAMU) as an assistant professor in 1994, advancing to professor in 2005. Scholthof spent sabbaticals as a visiting scholar at Harvard University (2002–2003) and at Cornell University (2009). Scholthof has made numerous innovative research contributions to plant virology, is an accomplished teacher, and has made many substantive service contributions to APS.
Scholthof is an internationally recognized plant virologist who has maintained a well-funded research program in this field. She has trained sixteen undergraduate students, eight graduate students, and ten post-doctoral fellows. At TAMU, Scholthof extensively characterized Panicum mosaic virus (PMV), and her work served as the basis for the establishment of Panicovirus as a new genus in the Tombusviridae. She also conducted pioneering studies on the biology of the satellite virus of PMV (SPMV) and its interaction with the PMV helper virus. Examples of original findings are that SPMV interacts synergistically with PMV and that the SPMV coat protein plays a multifunctional role in viral infection, including novel activities in nucleolar localization and virus movement. Using the PMV/SPMV system, she was also first to describe a defective interfering RNA (DI) of a satellite virus. Another important discovery, with potential practical implications, is that the SPMV capsid has a stabilizing effect on viral vector RNA, elevating levels of foreign gene expression in plants. The importance and quality of her studies have led to Scholthof being recognized as a worldwide leader in the area of plant virus satellites.
Brachypodium distachyon is a model system for grasses used for food, forage, and biofuels and has genetic resources akin to those of Arabidopsis. Scholthof recognized this and has utilized Brachypodium to perform host transcriptome analyses on virus-infected plants. This work unveiled SPMV-induced expression of host genes that could account for the SPMV-associated exacerbation of symptoms. Recently, she has expanded her viromics studies to include six other grass-infecting viruses and to compare transcriptome responses of selected host defense pathways in Brachypodium (a C3 plant) and Setaria italica (a C4 plant). In addition to expected conserved responses, virus-specific gene expression patterns were also identified. Furthermore, these studies revealed virus-induced expression of unannotated genes and a novel antiviral response that is regulated through alternative splicing, recently reported in The Plant Cell (2015). Recognition of Scholthof’s pioneering Brachypodium–virus research is evidenced by invitations to present her findings at a Brachypodium symposium at the 2012 American Society of Plant Biologists conference, the 2014 International Plant and Animal Genomics meeting, and the 2015 International Brachypodium Conference. She wrote a review on this topic for The Plant Cell, and two book chapters on the emergence of Brachypodium distachyon as a model species in plant biology. Scholthof is also recognized as an expert is in the history of plant pathology and virology. She is an accomplished practitioner–historian as evidenced by her success in obtaining NSF funding for her archival research. She coedited a highly successful anthology Tobacco mosaic virus: A Hundred Years of Contributions to Virology (APS PRESS) and has published in Annual Review of Public Health, Annual Review of Phytopathology, and Nature Reviews Microbiology. Recently, she published her research on “Making a Virus Visible: Francis O. Holmes and a Biological Assay for Tobacco mosaic virus” in the Journal of the History of Biology. She was invited to present on the history of Tobacco mosaic virus at a BARD workshop in Israel and at the History of Microbiology Symposium at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).
Scholthof’s intellectual interests and scholarly contributions are also revealed in undergraduate courses she developed, especially Pathogens, the Environment and Society. She also has published a peer-reviewed instructional module in The American Biology Teacher based on one of the laboratory exercises for this class. Another impressive teaching accomplishment is her success in establishing an undergraduate honors program in bioenvironmental sciences, the first honors program for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Her dedication and teaching excellence was acknowledged with several prestigious awards. In 2004, she received an Excellence in Teaching Award from APS. At TAMU, she received the Writing-Course Teaching Award in 2008 in “recognition of her innovation, imagination and enterprise in teaching writing,” and the prestigious University Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching in 2009.
Scholthof’s service to the scientific community is outstanding, including senior editor for APS PRESS and Phytopathology and associate editor for MPMI and Phytopathology. She published two books with APS PRESS and a DVD of an interview with Milton Zaitlin for the 2008 Centennial celebration. As a service to APS PRESS, she obtained worldwide rights to reissue E. C. Large’s classic text The Advance of the Fungi, for which she coauthored a new introduction. Her recognition as a practitioner–historian is evident from her service to the Agricultural History Society as a member of the Agricultural History Editorial Board and its Rasmussen Award Committee; and as a member of the ASM Center for the History of Microbiology Archives, for which she also chairs several subcommittees. She also serves on the Committee on Meetings and Programs for the History of Science Society.
Scholthof is a remarkable scientist who has achieved scholarly excellence in multiple areas. Her success as a scholar in science, as well as her distinction in teaching and her devotion to service, clearly elevate Scholthof to the level of excellence exemplified by a fellow of The American Phytopathological Society.
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