Diane Bassham named first recipient of Walter E. and Helen Parke Loomis Professorship of Plant Physiology at ISU

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Diane Bassham, Loomis Professorship

AMES, Iowa – Diane Bassham, professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, has been named the first recipient of the Walter E. and Helen Parke Loomis Professorship of Plant Physiology at Iowa State University.

The new three-year professorship provides a GDCB faculty member supplemental annual funds to strengthen the faculty member’s research and teaching programs. The funds are often used to support students, purchase additional equipment and supplies, and attend professional meetings.

“It’s a real honor to be selected,” Bassham said. “I’m very excited that it will allow me to continue to expand my research program in plant responses to environmental conditions. I’m also grateful to my many colleagues at ISU who have encouraged me over the years and helped me to establish a successful research program.”

The growth of an existing endowment fund at Iowa State created the new professorship in GDCB, an academic department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State.

The Loomis family established the Walter E. and Helen Parke Loomis Fund in 1981 to maintain and build upon Professor Walter E. Loomis’ legacy. Loomis came to ISU in 1927 and enjoyed a distinguished career as an imaginative researcher and renowned teacher in plant science. He died in 1977.

In the past 30 years, the Loomis Lecture Series has brought distinguished scientists to Iowa State to discuss cutting-edge plant biology research. The series, which will continue, has inspired many faculty, staff and students.

“With great generosity and vision, the Loomis family has added to the endowment to create the Walter E. and Helen Park Loomis Professorship,” said Jo Anne Powell-Coffman, professor and chair of GDCB. “This new professorship will help to recruit and retain the very best plant scientist faculty, and it will provide some funds to inspire new research directions."

"We are very thankful for the Loomis family’s commitment to Iowa State to create this named faculty position in such an important scientific discipline," said Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "The Loomis Professorship and other endowed faculty positions are essential to enhancing Iowa State’s academic excellence by providing a framework of excellence for the researchers and their students."

Bassham’s research focuses mainly on how autophagy (self-digestion by a cell) is activated when plants encounter environmental stress conditions so that, in the long term, the plant’s tolerance can be increased. Improving plant tolerance is a major agricultural goal, she added.

“Diane Bassham has earned international recognition for her research in the field of plant cell biology, and we believe she will achieve even greater heights during this professorship,” Powell-Coffman said. “Diane contributes to the department and to the university on many levels.  She is a rising research star. Beyond this, Diane is an accomplished teacher, and she is generous with her time as a citizen of ISU and of the broader plant science community.” -30-

About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in Iowa and around the world.

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Contacts: Diane Bassham, Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, (515) 294-7461, bassham@iastate.edu Jo Anne Powell-Coffman, Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, (515) 294-3906, japc@iastate.edu Jess Knight, Liberal Arts & Sciences Communication, (515) 294-9906, jeknight@iastate.edu