Professor, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory; Director, Genomic Analysis Laboratory; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator; Salk International Council Chair in Genetics; The Salk Institute
Dr. Joseph Ecker has been at the forefront of research to decode genomes and was a leader of the international effort to sequence the first plant genome, which was completed in 2000. More recently, he has turned to deciphering the epigenome, the layer of molecular tweaks that act on DNA to turn genes on and off. The epigenetic reference maps developed by Dr. Ecker and his colleagues may have practical uses in studies of plant and human development/disease. His work is revealing that the complicated genetic underpinnings of plants and humans are more similar than common perception.
He has received many honors for his contributions to the field of genetics/epigenetics. In a study, TIME magazine ranked the work of Dr. Ecker and his team to provide the first detailed map of the human epigenome as the second most important scientific discovery of 2009. In 2011, he received the George W. Beadle Medal for his outstanding contributions to the genetics community. His other accolades include election to the National Academy of Sciences; the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science; the Martin Gibbs Medal; the International Plant Growth Substances Association Distinguished Research Award; and the Kumho Science International Award.