CAFNR Plant Scientist Named AAAS Fellow

Bing Yang recognized for contributions in plant genomics

In recognition of nearly two decades of work creating rice varieties resistant to certain types of bacteria, Bing Yang, professor of plant sciences, was named as a 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow.

“There is so much diversity within the Society, and it is an honor to be among them,” Yang said. “The recognition of my work and my group inspires me to work harder – to do a better job.”

The recognition from AAAS did not come without a long list of accomplishments, however. Fueling his work along the way was Yang’s desire to make an impact on global food supply issues.

“Years of work for my lab has focused on this important topic related to a real-world problem and the understanding of plant biology,” Yang said. “This bacteria can cause severe blight and food shortages.”

Yang’s work began by identifying the disease mechanisms of Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo) in rice, which is one of the most devastating rice diseases. The disease often results in yield losses of up to 50% and sometimes destroys the entire crop. From there he worked to understand how plants can be resistant to the bacteria, and then used that information to edit the genome of rice plants and create the first resistant variety.

Along the way, Yang cultivated an impressive list of accomplishments that have made him a standout in the plant sciences community. In the last six years alone Yang has published 28 primary research manuscripts as corresponding or co-corresponding author, and his group has published 13 more along with 12 review articles and 5 book chapters. These papers generated more than 3,699 citations as of Feb. 18, 2022; he has been recognized as a Highly Cited Researcher by the Web of Science for the last three years. His lab also filed three patent applications in the last 10 years, and since 2015 he has given 66 invited presentations in national and international conferences as well as universities and has been invited to peer-review more than 60 manuscripts for a variety of scientific journals, 10 proposals as ad hoc reviewer and about 20 proposals as panel reviewer for national and international funding agencies.

“Dr. Yang is a tremendous asset to CAFNR and our community of scholars,” said Shibu Jose, CAFNR associate dean of research. “His contributions to the scientific community and agriculture embody our commitment to research that makes a real impact.”

Yang, who is a joint appointment with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, gives much credit to the team he has built.

“It’s not just an honor for my individual contribution,” he said of the fellowship. “It’s the collective work from my lab, my team, my group.”

Today, that group consists of 15 people – six Ph.D. students, four post-docs, three plant scientists and two visiting scholars – who work under his direction in his lab at Mizzou, where Yang has worked since 2018. He also credits his employer for helping foster some of his successes.

“It is great to be a part of the MU community,” he said. “The university provides an excellent academic environment with wonderful facilities and support from leadership.”

The AAAS fellows class of 2022 includes 505 fellows, 5 of which are faculty at the University of Missouri.

AAAS Fellows are a distinguished cadre of scientists, engineers and innovators who have been recognized for their achievements across disciplines. In a tradition stretching back to 1874, these individuals are elected annually by the AAAS Council.

Eligible nominees are members whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished and who have been a continuous AAAS member for at least four years leading up to the year of nomination. Fellows have included Thomas Edison, W.E.B DuBois, Maria Mitchell, Steven Chu, Ellen Ochoa and Irwin M. Jacobs.