UNL biochemist Donald Weeks elected AAAS Fellow

Released on 12/17/2009, at 1:00 PM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., December 17th, 2009 —
Donald Weeks
Donald Weeks

Donald Weeks, Maxcy professor of agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest federation of scientists.

Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. This year, AAAS fellowships were awarded to 531 members. Fellowship winners are honored for their efforts to advance science or applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.

Weeks was named in particular for distinguished contributions in the field of plant biotechnology in developing a novel and innovative approach in engineering herbicide-resistant plant crops.

"It is always gratifying to see work in which you have participated recognized by such a prestigious organization as AAAS," Weeks said. "As a scientist primarily engaged in fundamental areas of science, it is great to see fruits of some of our research soon coming to the marketplace where it will have a positive effect on farmers as well as consumers who will benefit from the continued availability of low-cost food."

Weeks and his research team identified soil bacteria that break down dicamba, a widely used, environmentally friendly herbicide. They isolated a gene from a bacterium that inactivated dicamba and inserted the gene into a plant chromosome, which resulted in dicamba-resistant soybean plants.

The group has continued research on molecular, cellular and biochemical processes to develop broadleaf crops that can tolerate dicamba.

"Minimally, dicamba-resistant crops will provide farmers with an additional tool to use in their never-ending battle to control costly weed infestations in their crops," he said. "It will likely have even broader implications in helping to greatly extend the useful lifetime of crops that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup)."

Weeks joined the UNL faculty in 1989 as director of the Center for Biotechnology. He chaired the department of Biochemistry from 2001 to 2006, and has been recognized for teaching excellence.

He and other new fellows will be honored Feb. 20 in San Diego during annual meeting of AAAS.

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