Creative Research Medal 2017
Katrien Devos, professor of plant biology, has made numerous important contributions to the understanding of plant genomics, in particular wheat, millets and switchgrass, a biofuel crop. Her work with foxtail millet, an important crop in China, and finger millet, a food security grain crop in East Africa, has highlighted the need to bring attention, funding and research to lesser-known orphan crops. Little was known about the genetics of either species before Devos began her project, but her pivotal paper on the genomics of Setaria has formed the basis for a new community of researchers working on foxtail millet and its wild relative, green foxtail, which are now considered models for understanding the genetics of switchgrass. Devos now is leading a similar endeavor in finger millet. This work provides valuable information that was otherwise missing from the community of plant biology research and has created a noticeable shift from the community’s single-minded emphasis on major crops.