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2016 Kende Award goes to Dr. Marcelo Campos

Dr. Marcelo Campos, a former doctoral candidate in the Howe lab, has added his name to the PRL annals as a recipient of the 2016 Kende Award, which recognizes the best doctoral dissertation in the plant sciences at MSU from the previous two years.

In addition to receiving a monetary award, Marcelo presented a seminar at the Plant Biology Building on December 12. His talk challenged a long held notion in biology circles that plants cannot simultaneously defend and grow well. In fact, as he demonstrated in a mutant plant, they can.

“I never imagined myself winning the Hans Kende award!” Marcelo says. “Dr. Gregg Howe has a nice track record of people winning it, and he has been a great boss and PI to me. At the same time, this means a lot personally, since I work with plant hormones. Hans Kende was a giant in this field, and I read his papers even before I came to the PRL.”

Marcelo Campos portrait
Dr. Marcelo Campos

Marcelo hails from Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. He obtained his Bachelors at the Catholic University of Brasilia and his Masters at the University of Sao Paulo, where he worked with plant hormones and defense functions in tomato.

In 2009, he joined the PRL. “I really wanted to join the Howe lab, so much so that I didn’t apply to any other grad schools. I was really lucky it worked out!” His initial project was a continuation of his research with tomatoes, but two years into his degree, he had no results, and funding was running out.

“Gregg threw me a lifeline. Another post doc was experimenting on a plant, Arabidopsis, by removing its defense genes, one by one. I was to study these mutants to describe their distinct features. It was a new plant for me and unfamiliar research territory. I was basically starting from scratch, very scary.”

In retrospect, Marcelo thinks this was the best decision he ever took. His project took off, culminating in an article in Nature Communications.

A packed room
Dr. Howe introducing Marcelo to a packed room

Dr. Howe, a MSU Foundation Professor says, “Marcelo has all of the qualities that professors like to see in their students: smart, hard working, intellectually independent and, in the case of Marcelo, eternally optimistic. I’m privileged to have worked with Marcelo and grateful for his many contributions to our lab”.

Marcelo is now a post doc at the University of Brasilia, where he has resumed tomato research while assuming some teaching and administrative duties. “I decided to move back home because I had family and a girlfriend there. Also, I lost a dog in Brazil and a dear friend in a car accident during my time at the PRL.”

“It was a trade-off. Unfortunately, doing quality science in Brazil is difficult, with no funding, poor infrastructure, and an unfavorable political and economic climate. For example, it took months to get a testing kit in the mail, which delayed my research. Here, I would cross the street to the BMB store and buy it right away. You have no idea the amazing resources there are at the PRL until you leave!”


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