Link to home

Steven G. Pueppke was born in Fargo, ND, and reared on a grain farm near Erie. He obtained his B.Sc. degree from Michigan State University and then enrolled in the Ph.D. program in plant pathology at Cornell University, where he became the first student of Hans VanEtten and worked on the phytoalexin response of pea to fungal pathogens. After receiving his Ph.D., he spent 1 year as a research associate at the C. F. Kettering Laboratory in Yellow Springs, OH. He has held academic appointments at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the University of Florida, and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is currently professor of plant pathology and genetics and unit leader in plant science at the University of Missouri.

Dr. Pueppke’s research utilizes the techniques of biochemistry and molecular genetics to focus on the basis of host-specificity between plants and bacteria, both pathogens and symbionts. His group was the first to identify soybean lines that lack seed lectin and to demonstrate that their ability to recognize rhizobia is not compromised. This and other discoveries resulted in a shift away from the lectin-recognition hypothesis as an explanation for specificity. During the early 1980s, his group also discovered that the binding of Agrobacterium cells to wounded host tissues could be explained in simple physico-chemical terms and that specificity of soybean infection is imposed at the stage of infection thread biogenesis.

For the past 11 years, Dr. Pueppke has held full-time administrative appointments at the University of Missouri. As chair of plant pathology, he became the youngest person (age 33) ever named chairman of plant pathology. In 1989, when the College of Agriculture was reorganized into a unit-structure, he became the plant science unit leader. Dr. Pueppke is considered an able teacher and administrator and continues to be well-liked and respected by faculty, staff, and students even through the difficult budget reductions and major College reorganization. The Plant Pathology Department is known for the cooperative atmosphere he encourages.

He has maintained an active research program during this entire period. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Pueppke shifted the emphasis of his laboratory to a newly discovered symbiont of soybean, Rhizobium fredii. His laboratory is considered the premier location in world for study of this organism. Dr. Pueppke has been able to initiate ongoing research collaborations with colleagues in China, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, and Argentina and finds this one of the most satisfying aspects of his job. Dr. Pueppke was program manager for biological stress in the USDA Grants Office in 1986-1987 and has served on numerous federal grant panels. He has been senior editor for Phytopathology (1988- 1991) and chaired the APS Strategic Planning Committee in 1991-1992.