Andrew O. Jackson
Dr. Thomas Jack Morris was born on April 28, 1947, in Montreal, Canada. He completed a B.S. degree in agriculture in 1968 and an M.S. degree in plant pathology with Dr. Richard Hamilton at McGill University in 1970. He completed a Ph.D. in plant pathology at the University of Nebraska in 1973 with Dr. Joe Semancik. This was followed by post-doctoral fellowships at UCRiverside and The University of British Columbia and an assistant professor appointment in the Department of Biology at the University of New Brunswick. In 1976, Dr. Morris was appointed as assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC-Berkeley and rose to full professor in 1986. In 1990, he moved to the University of Nebraska as director and distinguished professor of biological sciences.
Drs. Jackson and Morris are two of the most widely recognized plant virologists in the world. Both began their scientific careers in plant pathology departments when using molecular biology to study plant viruses was in its infancy. Independently, both recognized the power and potential of molecular genetics and realized that it was essential to emphasize molecular research to understand fundamental aspects of viral pathogenesis. Developing these approaches was crucial at that time because it allowed plant virologiststo communicate with scientists studying animal virology and compete for federal research dollars supporting cutting edge research. Both Drs. Jackson and Morris developed strong national and international working interactions and encouraged other virologists to foster development of molecular genetic techniques. Their influence was a particularly important component in bridging the gap between basic and applied plant pathology approaches. This gap is almost nonexistent today, but it was wide and sometimes contentious 25 to 30 years ago. Both also provided important directions within APS by serving on committees, particularly the Plant Virology Committee, to advance molecular plant virology and to encourage molecular applications to plant pathology. These early efforts had a significant impact on applied plant virology research and training. They also trained numerous graduate students and post-doctoral research associates who have gone on to have productive careers in plant virology and plant pathology in the United States and abroad. These individuals have emphasized the research philosophies promoted by Drs. Jackson and Morris; thus, their teaching has influenced the careers of many young scientists. Each individual has received prestigious awards including the APS Fellow and AAAS Fellow awards for excellent independent and collaborative scientific accomplishments, and each has been designated to carry out important administrative duties by their respective universities.
Drs. Jackson and Morris have maintained productive research programs throughout their careers. Their combined research efforts have been remarkable and have had great impact on our understanding of plant–virus interactions. Dr. Jackson’s early research demonstrated his ability to communicate effectively and to interact with basic and applied scientists. His early record includes publications in diverse journals such as Plant Disease Reporter, Plant Physiology, Phytopathology, and Virology. Dr. Morris’ early publication record shows a similar range of expertise and includes publications in The American Potato Journal, Phytopathology, The Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, and Virology, as well as Science and Cell. Both popularized emerging technologies that could be applied to resolve practical plant pathological problems, including early application of ELISA for maize and carnation virus discrimination and use of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to index for viroid diseases as well as to detect viral-specific dsRNA for disease diagnosis. They also developed innovative protocols for isolating polyribosomes and virus purification procedures generally useful for isolating RNA viruses from plants and insects. Both devised cloning strategies that could be applied to genetic analyses of viruses as well as detection and diagnosis of virus and mycoplasma diseases. As their careers developed, Drs. Jackson and Morris emphasized fundamental studies of hordeiviruses, rhabdoviruses, carmoviruses, and tombusviruses and developed these into models for research. Their efforts have contributed substantially to the advancement of virology and have answered a number of important questions in pathology, such as which virus genes elicit host defense responses, what features distinguish plant- and vertebrateinfecting rhabdoviruses, and how virus-infected plants evolve defective-interfering RNAs that ameliorate the disease phenotype. They were also among the first to use recombinant viruses to dissect virus–plant interactions, and their research has made great strides in understanding virus replication and the determinants that elicit host responses.
In summary, the accomplishments of Drs. Jackson and Morris have encouraged other plant pathologists to use molecular genetic techniques and have helped foster recognition of plant virology by the nonplant community. During their early training at the University of Nebraska, Drs. Jackson and Morris became close friends and subsequently overlapped professionally at UC-Berkeley from 1985 to 1990. Throughout their careers, they have collaborated actively in research and have trained a large number of scientists who now are leaders in academia, industry, and government in the United States and abroad. Thus, their combined and individual commitments to integrating molecular approaches into applied and fundamental plant pathology and their overall leadership and influence in plant virology have had a major impact on our profession. These research, teaching, and leadership activities are highly deserving of recognition by APS and receipt of the Ruth Allen Award.