You can sum
up Roger Beachy's key to success in one wordfocus.
It's the best
piece of advice I've ever received," he says. "Focus,
focus, focus. Like many sciences we have lots of ideas, but you
have to learn how to focus to achieve success."
a thing or two about success. President of the Donald Danforth
Plant Science Center in St. Louis, he is internationally known
for his groundbreaking research on developing virus-resistant
plants through biotechnology. And it all started with a desire
to reduce chemical use in agriculture.
resistance is one way to achieve this goal," he explains.
"If you have disease resistant plants, you may not have to
spray with chemical insecticides. That means greener agriculture,
and I really believe in greener agriculture. That's what's driven
me for most of my career."
The son of
a farmer, Beachy says it was only natural for him to be drawn
just a kid on a farm," he says. "And you can't get the
green out of the veins."
to college where he gravitated to plant science thanks to the
influence of several science teachers who happened to be plant
biologists. By the time he reached graduate school, his focus
was on how viruses cause disease in plants. He went on to receive
a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Michigan State University and
conducted post-doctoral work at Cornell University in upstate
New York. Then in 1978, Beachy was recruited as a professor and
Director of the Center for Plant Science and Biotechnology at
Washington University in St. Louis. His work here, in collaboration
with the Monsanto Company, led to the development of the world's
first genetically modified food crop, a variety of tomato that
was modified for resistance to virus disease.
me proud to think that many of the early examples of this technology
have been applied by scientists around the world," he comments.
"They applied them, and they've improved upon them. So I
feel that something usefulŐs come out of my work."
Washington University in 1991 to head the Division of Plant Biology
at The Scripps Research Institute, a leading biomedical research
center in La Jolla, Calif. He was also co-director of the International
Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology at Scripps.
Then in January 1999, he returned to St. Louis as the first president
of the newly established Plant Science Center. And once again
his laboratory is achieving success with his research in virus-resistant
20 years ago we started a project to develop resistance against
the virus infection in rice," he explains. "About a
year ago, we discovered a new solution for the disease that was
different than the first one we discovered back in 1985. It opens
up a whole new avenue in research for others to follow. So we're
very excited about it."
And this leads
to what Beachy calls the second part of his lifeinternational
countries like India and Africa have not invested in agriculture
and are therefore experiencing food shortages," he explains.
"So for the past 25 years, they've needed our excess. Those
years may be coming to an end. Ever since that first discovery,
I've been working toward helping others do the advanced technology
we've learned to do. I hope it may help them become successful
in their own right."
since taking over the Plant Science Center he doesn't get to delve
into research himself, as much as he used to. Instead, he has
a laboratory of seasoned scientists overseeing the work. Still,
he says he enjoys the challenge of solving problems and does get
his laboratory to test some of his own "crazy ideas."
they humor me," he says. "They do the experiments I
want, and then sometimes do their own. Then they tell me how theirs
worked and maybe mine didn't. But if it works out well, that's
okay with me."
Ohio, but raised throughout
FAMILY: Wife, Terry plus two children and three grandchildren.
FAVORITE BOOKS: Histories of great scientists.
FAVORITE MUSIC: Classical music calms his soul and
enriches his life. But when he wants to get down, it's Bruce
Springsteen at full volume.
HOBBIES: Currently skiing, golf and tennis; but he
plans to take up fly-fishing.