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Yang Xu wins 2021 Carl Douglas Prize

Yang Xu
In more good news, Yang Xu, pictured above, has recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professorship at the University of Guelph in Canada.
Courtesy of Yang Xu

Yang Xu, a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of University Distinguished Professor Christoph Benning at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), has been awarded the 2021 Carl Douglas Prize. The award was announced at the Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (CSPB) virtual conference, which was held on June 7-10, 2021. The prize included a cash reward of $500 and an opportunity to present at the annual scientific conference of the Society.

The Carl Douglas Prize is awarded annually to one postdoctoral researcher. The winner is recognized for their, “outstanding contributions to plant biology, based on initiative and originality of the research, productivity of [that] individual, and leadership during their postdoctoral fellowship.” Members of the selection committee were impressed with Yang’s research in the field of plant and algal lipid biochemistry and biotechnology, her ability to write and secure significant research funding through grants, and her mentoring of graduate students.

“I’m very pleased and truly honored to get this recognition. I really appreciate the massive support from Christoph and all my previous supervisors,” says Yang.

Yang’s research throughout her career has centered on the biochemistry of lipids in plants and algae. One of her aims is to increase or modify lipid content and composition to develop new biotechnological applications. Lipids hold promise for producing biofuels that power our cars or omega-3s that promote human heart health.

In addition to winning the Carl Douglas prize, Yang has recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professorship at the University of Guelph in Canada and will start her new position in January 2022. She will be housed in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“I want to thank Christoph for his tremendous help during my job search. He provided me with opportunities and resources to enhance my CV,” Yang says. “Christoph made a lot of helpful suggestions as I prepared for my job interview. He also facilitated me serving as a grant reviewer, which was a great addition to my resume.”

Christoph Benning, Yang’s mentor and PRL director, says, “Yang Xu is an outstanding scientist with a proven track record in lipid biochemistry before she even joined my lab. This award is highly deserved and I am looking forward to seeing her excel in her new position at the University of Guelph.”

In her new lab, Yang will expand on her research roots by focusing on both basic science and applied technologies involving lipids.

“I learned a lot in the Benning lab, which is a major contributor to the field of lipids,” Yang says. “During my time here, I studied lipid production in the membranes of photosynthetic organisms. This experience with basic research, along with my previous training, will inform my future experiments with producing synthetic lipid applications.”

To honor the late Professor Carl Douglas, the Carl Douglas fund was established in 2016 to support an annual prize that recognizes outstanding achievements by postdoctoral CSPB members in the field of plant biology. Yang Xu is the third annual winner.

By Igor Houwat and Yang Xu