Congratulations to Dr. Martha Hawes from the University of Arizona for winning the 2012 Pelton Award from the Botanical Society of America.
Martha is well known for her work on root border cells. In the past, most people considered these cells to be ”sloughed-off root caps cells” that were non-viable and without function. Martha’s entire career has focused on changing this perception and now border cells are described in numerous botany textbooks. Throughout her entire career, she has been very creative in designing experiments to understand the basic biology of this unique cell type especially in light of how border cells fight plant disease. These metabolically active and viable border cells “trap’ fungi and other potential pathogens, which are then detached from the root surface leaving the root tip free of infection. Considering that the root tip serves as one of the major sources of root exudates that can attract microbial pathogens, the fact that this exceptionally vulnerable region of the root is protected from infection by the border cells is a real paradigm shift.
A gift from Frederick Kavanagh endowed the award to honor the memory of Jeanette Siron Pelton, an inspiring teacher whose special field had been plant morphogenesis.