UI professor elected to Royal Society
CHAMPAIGN — A University of Illinois plant biology professor has been elected into the Royal Society of London.
Stephen Long, who has pioneered research into the photosynthetic productivity of crops, is the UI Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology and faculty fellow at the UI's Institute for Genomic Biology.
Long was among 43 others elected as fellows into the society this year. Founded in the 1660s, the Royal Society is the world's oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, according to the university. Members are elected for life on the basis of excellence in science following a peer review process.
"As a Londoner by birth, it is a very special honor," Long said in a release. "Of course this recognition owes much to the many amazing graduate students, research fellows and academic colleagues at Essex and at Illinois who have worked with me, discussed, critiqued, supported and helped develop the ideas that have led to the discoveries recognized here," he said.
Long's academic career began in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex and he joined the UI in 1999. Long, along with Chris Somerville and Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley, won a $500 million award from BP for the Energy Biosciences Institute where scientists are developing biofuels. Long served as the deputy director during the first five years of the institute.
Long is now director of a project that is looking at ways in which the process of photosynthesis can be made more efficient in response to global food security challenges expected in the future, a project funded by a $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He is currently a faculty member of the Genomic Ecology of Global Change research theme at the Institute for Genomic Biology, as well as editor-in-chief of the journals Global Change Biology and Global Change Biology — Bioenergy.
Among his many achievements at the UI, Long and his students proved that the giant grass miscanthus, a biofuel candidate, could be grown productively in the Midwest. He led the development of SoyFACE, a facility south of campus that helps researchers understand how crops will respond to atmospheric changes.
Long will join other notable Fellows including Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, Francis Crick, and James Watson with this recognition.