Blake Meyers, a professor of plant science and technology in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Election to membership in the NAS is considered one of the highest honors a U.S. scientist can receive. Meyers was notified of his selection Tuesday, May 3, and is the 12th University of Missouri professor to join the academy’s ranks.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution, established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and – with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine – provides science, engineering and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. The National Academy of Sciences not only honors scientists of distinction but is an active, working Academy whose members address important matters in science and advise the nation on problems where scientific insights are critical.
“This honor showcases not only Blake’s stellar research portfolio, but also the partnership Mizzou has with the Danforth Plant Science Center,” said Christopher Daubert, vice chancellor and dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “We’re proud of the high-level, collaborative work being done between our two institutions and proud that Blake was the first joint hire in this unique collaboration.”
Meyers’ research focuses on the analysis of small RNAs in plants. He has led development and application of DNA sequencing technologies to make fundamental discoveries about the biology of plants, including mechanisms of disease resistance, function and regulation of genomes, epigenetic mechanisms and regulatory RNA.
“Blake’s vast contributions have led to increased understanding of plant growth and development, including novel mechanisms controlling pollen formation and plant reproduction,” said James Carrington, president and CEO of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, which has a partnership with MU to elevate regional plant science to address global challenges. “His research has had wide application to crop improvement, including development of new technologies for breeding hybrid crops.”
Throughout his career, Meyers has more than 260 published research studies that have been cited nearly 30,000 times. He also currently serves as editor-in-chief for The Plant Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of plant sciences, cell and molecular biology, genetics, development and evolution.
“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Meyers’ election to the National Academy of Sciences,” said Heike Buecking, director of the Division of Plant Science and Technology at MU. “It is a very well-deserved honor. He is one of the foremost experts in the genetic analysis of small ribonucleic acids (RNAs) in plants; his pioneering work in next-generation and small RNA sequencing has received national acclaim. We are proud of his accomplishments and his contributions to the strength of our Division of Plant Science and Technology, which is reflected in this honor.”
Meyers earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Chicago before earning both a master’s degree and doctoral degree in genetics from the University of California-Davis.
After entering the field of molecular biology in the early 1990’s, Meyers began work on some of the field’s most historically ambitious goals, such as using plants to address global food security and improve the environment. Today, Meyers and his team focus on better understanding plant genomes through the type of RNA they produce. The Meyers laboratory uses experimental and computational approaches to study plant reproduction and fertility to enhance yield gains in crop plants.
“Plants have the potential to solve a lot of the problems we face,” Meyers said. “In a world with growing population and finite resources, we are ever more dependent on plants to address our needs.”