Scott Gold was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and received a B.S. degree in biology from California State University, Los Angeles in 1982. He completed his M.S. degree in plant pathology at the University of Arizona under the direction of Mike Stanghellini in 1983 and his Ph.D. degree in 1990 at the University of California, Riverside on a USDA National Needs Fellowship under the direction of Noel Keen. There, he studied the molecular biology of fungi and bacteria causing soft rots with a focus on cell wall-degrading enzymes and collaborated on the characterization of bacterial avirulence genes. From 1990 to 1993, Gold carried out post-doctoral research on the relationship between dimorphism and pathogenicity in Ustilago maydis in the laboratory of James Kronstad at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. In a brief second post-doctoral position at the University of California, San Diego (1994) with Martin Yanofsky, he studied molecular aspects controlling plant flower development. Gold joined the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia as an assistant professor in 1995.
While at the University of Georgia, Gold carried out a continuously funded research program, primarily on U. maydis, but he also explored aspects of the biology of Sclerotium rolfsii, Verticillium dahliae, and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Gold’s research described the signaling pathways determining the dimorphic transitions in U. maydis. He conclusively showed that cAMP was a central second messenger for this process. He also showed that the ability of the fungus to make the transition from budding to filamentous growth is a critical pathogenicity determinant. Forward genetic studies demonstrated that the pheromone responsive MAP-kinase cascade carried out crosstalk with the cyclic amp pathway, a discovery that connected dimorphism, mating control, and virulence. Employing various mutants, the Gold lab used reverse genetics to identify differentially expressed transcripts during dimorphic phases. This work led to the identification of a transcription factor regulating dimorphism that, when deleted, generated a striking, in vitro sporulation phenotype. Normally, sporulation only occurs in planta. A follow-up report described the transcriptomic analysis of this in vitro sporulation phenotype. Finally, in collaboration with scientists at the Donald Danforth Center, Gold and colleagues showed that expressing a mycoviral-derived transgene in maize conferred immunity to corn smut. While at the University of Georgia, Gold served as advisor to four Ph.D. and two M.S. recipients.
Currently, Gold is a research plant pathologist with USDA-ARS. He is teaming with colleagues on projects to eliminate foodborne mycotoxins, with the current focus of preventing fumonisin contamination of maize products by Fusarium verticillioides. Teaching has been a passion for Gold throughout his carrier and he continues his teaching activities by volunteering for classroom instruction at the University of Georgia. He also provides training opportunities for University of Georgia graduate and undergraduate students and has served as a mentor for more than 60 undergraduates and 12 high school students conducting research projects in his laboratory and serves on numerous graduate student advisory committees. He currently mentors four Ph.D. students, one M.S. student, and several undergraduates. Outside of work obligations, he teaches a 1-day continuing education course at the State Botanical Garden on edible and poisonous mushrooms with Marin Brewer of the University of Georgia.
Gold played a major role in establishing strong foundations for several APS initiatives. He led the effort in the nascent days of genome sequencing to develop a consensus microbe genome sequence priority list across disparate APS subject matter committees. Though potentially a contentious undertaking at the time, Gold’s inclusive style guided the establishment of the list and several revisions between 2002 and 2008 with remarkable consensus. This list was a valued resource for review panels regarding what plant pathogens were viewed by the plant pathology research community as being of high priority for sequencing. The correlation that the first sequenced microbes were those at the top of the APS list is indicative of the utility of the list in the early phase of genomics in plant pathology. Stemming from his role in genome sequencing, Gold was selected to serve on the APS Public Policy Board (2002–2008). He continued service to APS in 2008–2009 as chair of the National Plant Microbe Germplasm System Committee, a special assignment of APS Public Policy Board. Gold organized two workshops that brought domestic and international culture collection experts together and initiated the continuing APS efforts to support development of a national plant-associated microbe repository for current and future culture collections that could otherwise be abandoned and destroyed. He also served on the APS Scientific Visionary Forum (2010–2012). Most recently, Gold was selected as the inaugural director of the APS Office of Education, where he served from 2011 to 2013, and as immediate past director in 2014. In this capacity, Gold established and provided leadership to a diverse board that generated an Office of Education strategic plan and undertook several initiatives that are continuing.
In addition to the activities above, Gold has provided many years of editorial service to APS. This service includes associate editor for Phytopathology (1999–2003), senior editor for Phytopathology (2003–2005), associate editor for MPMI (2004–2006), senior editor for the APS Education Center and Plant Health Instructor (2011–2013), and continued frequent ad hoc reviewer for APS journals. Specific aspects of his participation in APS have been recognized with the 2006 APS Outstanding Volunteer Award and the 2010 APS Excellence in Teaching Award.