Barb Sears receives Faculty Emeriti Association award

  • Apr 30, 2019
  • awards, Benning lab
  • Nonfeature News Story
  • By Igor Houwat; Banner image by Derrick L. Turner

Dr. Barbara B. Sears, an MSU Faculty Emerita retired from the Department of Plant Biology, has been awarded the 2019 MSU Faculty Emeriti Association Award for "Outstanding Contributions by an Individual."

Dr. Sears was recognized by the MSU Faculty Emeriti Association at their annual FEA Recognition Awards on April 19. The rationale for her award is, “to recognize the activities of individuals who, during their retirement,  have made formidable contributions to the MSU Community or their unit or to fostering the engagement of MSU Faculty Emeriti.”

Sears, who currently works in the lab of Christoph Benning, has recently made essential contributions to research aimed at understanding how the alga Chlamydomonas controls cell division in response to nutrient supply. The work has implications for biofuel and cancer research.

She is also co-mentoring graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs working on this NSF-funded project. As a result, Sears has co-authored several important research papers.

Barb Sears receiving the award
Barb Sears (left) receiving her award. 
By Derrick L. Turner, © 2018 MSU Board of Trustees

“Being able to work in Christoph Benning’s lab has provided a welcoming and stimulating academic environment,” Dr. Sears says. “I’ve been able to contribute to the algal projects as a geneticist, complementing the lab’s emphasis on biochemistry and molecular biology. Our collaboration has allowed me to continue to pursue research while relinquishing the administrative and teaching responsibilities of academia.

Benning, who also is MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory director, says, “I have been collaborating with Dr. Sears for many years on algal biology, and she has made many critical contritbutions to our research as a Professor Emerita of Plant Biology. She has also helped me mentor a number of graduate and under graduate students, and I am lucky to have her continue collaborating with me.”

Danny Schnell, chair of the Department of Plant Biology, adds, “Barb is a model for how emeritus faculty can continue to make valuable contributions to many areas of research and teaching.  In particular, Barb has shown a remarkable commitment to training a new generation of scientists in Christoph’s lab, and Plant Biology is delighted that her efforts are recognized by this award.”  

Dr. Sears obtained her PhD from Duke University. She came to MSU as an Assistant Professor immediately after a 3-year postdoctoral research stint at the University of Duesseldorf, Germany. Her research prior to retirement was on the extranuclear genetics of the chloroplasts and mitochondria of plants and algae, with an emphasis on replication, repair and recombination of organelle DNA.

She became a full professor in 1998 and Director of the Genetics Graduate Program in 2003. In the latter position, she helped create and subsequently coordinated an exchange program with the Heinrich Heine University of Duesseldorf. She continued this leadership role for five years after her retirement in 2013.