The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has elected M.A. Saghai Maroof, professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, a 2022 AAAS fellow.

“It is a great honor to be elected as a fellow of AAAS,” said Maroof, whose research programs are directed toward crop improvement, integrating molecular approaches with conventional genetics and breeding. Results from that research have been published in more than 110 refereed journal articles and three book chapters, with nearly 22,000 citations. Maroof's research has resulted in five patents being issued.

The association bestowed him the honor for “fundamental contributions to plant genetics through the development and application of molecular markers, particularly in population genomics and discovery of disease resistance genes.”

“AAAS is excited to announce the newest class of fellows from across the scientific enterprise in a tradition dating back nearly 150 years and to honor their broad range of achievements,” said Sudip Parikh, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

Maroof joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an associate professor in 1989 and was promoted to professor in 1995.

He was one of the early investigators to employ molecular markers for large scale genetic screening. Maroof first provided evidence for the Mendelian inheritance of DNA molecular markers, then developed a high throughput fingerprinting methodology for efficient screening. One of the resulting papers has been cited 6,500 times.

He also has explored the genomics of disease resistance genes, as reducing crop yield loss from disease is of paramount importance for ensuring future food security. He worked on controlling gray leaf spot, a major disease problem in corn production areas. This work resulted in several papers, the issuance of a patent, and development of gray left spot-resistant corn hybrids.

Maroof also conducted a comprehensive study on soybean virus diseases. This work led to the discovery of new virus resistance genes, chromosomal location determination, and stacking three resistance genes in a single soybean line. A grant as a Center of Excellence for Soybean Genomics Research resulted in three patents being issued.

Another significant contribution in disease resistance research was the development of an efficient protocol for the identification of resistance genes from any crop. The research has been cited by others nearly 600 times.

His research programs have been supported by funding from state and federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as commodity boards, industry, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

During his career, Maroof has trained and advised 27 graduate students, 44 postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scholars.  Fourteen of those graduate students have received 30 departmental, college, university, and national awards and scholarships.

“I have been very fortunate to work with a group of brilliant graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scholars, and accomplished collaborators on-campus and at the national and international levels. Their significant contributions have elevated the success of my research program,” Maroof said.  

Maroof was a recipient of the Basic Research Excellence Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He was elected a fellow of the Crop Science Society of America in 2019.

The 2022 fellows class includes about 500 scientists, engineers, and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines.

The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world’s largest general scientific society and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of sciences, serving 10 million people.

Written by Patrick McKee

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