NC State’s Sederoff Honored for Molecular Genetics Work With Forest Trees

Ron Sederoff

Ron Sederoff, an NC State forestry professor and pioneering molecular geneticist, has won the 2017 Marcus Wallenberg Foundation Prize, an international award for scientific achievements in fields important to forestry.

The Wallenberg Prize is awarded annually to one scientist or team of scientists whose achievements broaden forestry knowledge and advance technical developments in related fields. The King of Sweden will present Sederoff with the award, which includes a cash prize of 2 million Swedish kronor, during a ceremony in Stockholm in October.

Sederoff, one of the first scientists to study molecular genetics of forest trees, established the Forest Biotechnology Group at NC State in 1988. His work focuses on gaining a better understanding of forest tree biology and using that knowledge to accelerate tree breeding. The selection committee honored Sederoff for “breakthroughs in developing methods for gene discovery in conifer species and exploiting new breeding technologies for improved properties.”

Over the last 30 years, researchers with NC State’s Forest Biotechnology Group have studied the genetic basis for tree traits such as disease resistance, growth and quality. Scientists with the group have worked to sequence pine and American chestnut genomes. The team has studied the molecular basis for wood structure, investigating the biochemical and genetic basis of cell wall formation. Their focus is on the pathway for biosynthesis of lignin and cell wall structural proteins. The team’s purpose is to promote innovation in basic science and apply new discoveries and technology to practical problems in forest trees.

Sederoff is a Distinguished University Professor of Forestry, Edwin F. Conger Professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and co-director of the Forest Biotechnology Group with colleague Vincent Chiang. In 1995, Sederoff was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He is an inventor on multiple U.S. patents and was honored as the Institute of Forest Biotechnology’s 2011 Forest Biotechnologist of the Year.

Sederoff is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the International Academy of Wood Science. In 2004, he received an honorary doctorate in Forest Science from the Swedish Agricultural University.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology, and master’s and doctoral degrees in zoology (genetics), all from the University of California, Los Angeles. He completed an early career postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Geneva, Switzerland, followed by faculty positions at Columbia University, the University of Oregon and the genetics department at NC State University. After a stint as a U.S. Forest Service scientist in California, he joined NC State’s forestry and environmental resources department in 1987.

A native of Montreal, Canada, Sederoff is married to NC State professor Heike Winter Sederoff and has three children.