Fellow: Awarded 2015
Field of Study: Plant Sciences
Competition: US & Canada
Eran Pichersky grew up in Israel and attended elementary and high schools there. From 1977 to 1980 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with a B.Sc. degree in genetics. For the next four years, he did research under Prof. Leslie Gottlieb at the University of California, David for a Ph.D. degree, graduating in 1984. A post-doctoral research fellowship enabled him to do additional research in plant biology at the Rockefeller University under the supervision of Prof. Anthony Cashmore. In 1986 he was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan where he has been ever since. Professor Pichersky served as the first Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) from 2001-2003. In 2005, he was appointed the M.M. Marin Collegiate Professor in MCDB.
Prof. Pichersky’s research has centered on the basic scientific question of how plants produce so many different chemicals that help them defend again their enemies such as herbivore and attract beneficial animals such as pollinators. Many of the chemicals produced by plants for these purposes are utilized by humans as food flavorants and in the production of perfumes and medicines. Prof. Pichersky’s laboratory investigates the biochemical pathways involved in the production of such plant compounds, the enzymes that catalyze them, and the genes that encode these enzymes. Over the years, his laboratory has identified the genes responsible for the distinct smell of clove, orange blossom, and basil leaves, and other alluring chemicals. His work has been carried out in collaboration with many other research groups around the world, including in Canada, Germany, Israel, Australia, Japan, and the US, with more than a few of these laboratories headed by scientists who had been trained by Prof. Pichersky.