New award will honor Winslow Briggs’ legacy of mentorship

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The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) will name a mentorship award in honor of legendary Carnegie plant scientist Winslow Briggs.

Washington, DC—The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) will name a mentorship award in honor of legendary Carnegie plant scientist Winslow Briggs, who died in February. 

The ASPB is a professional society dedicated to the advancement of plant sciences.  Briggs served as its president in 1975.  He also received the society’s Stephen Hales Prize for noteworthy contributions to the field in 1994 and its Adolph E. Gude, Jr. Award for his service to the plant science community in 2007.

Briggs joined Carnegie as the Director of the Department of Plant Biology in 1973 after teaching both at Harvard University—where he completed his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D.—and at Stanford University. He held the position for two decades, establishing himself as a global leader in plant genetics and physiology, publishing landmark research on the molecular mechanisms that plants and other organisms use to sense and respond to light. Even after his retirement in 1993, Briggs remained extremely influential in science as he pursued research on photoreceptors in plants and bacteria until the day of his death. 

The ASPB—Carnegie Winslow Briggs Mentorship Award will recognize another crucial aspect of Briggs’ legacy: his longstanding generosity toward students, postdocs, and other early career scientists.

As director, he initiated a fellowship for Stanford graduate students to study at Carnegie. Briggs welcomed people from around the world to train at the department, and he was hands-on in fostering their professional development and training. He also set a high standard for respectful treatment of graduate students and postdocs that many went on to replicate in their future labs.

“The outpouring of love and support as news spread of Winslow’s death is a testament to how many lives he touched,” said Zhiyong Wang, Acting Director of Carnegie’s Department Plant Biology. “I can think of no better way for ASPB to honor his memory than to reward examples of outstanding mentorship in others.”

An anonymous donor has pledged to match funds raised by Carnegie to up to $100,000, which is halfway to the total needed to endow the award. The goal is to secure the remaining $100,000 by the end of the year; currently $40,000 has been raised.  

Once endowed, the biennial award will recognize an individual with at least five years of continuous ASPB membership “for their demonstrated commitment to mentoring and supporting next-generation scientists, for making a significant positive impact on their former mentees' careers, and for advancing research in the field of plant science through their former mentees.” The inaugural recipient will be invited to chair a concurrent symposium at the ASPB annual conference in the year following their selection.

To learn more about Winslow Briggs and support the Briggs Award, click here