Blog 4: Joanne Chory

Joanne Chory is an American geneticist and plant biologist. She was born on March 19th, 1955 in Boston, Massachusetts and she still has not stopped working. Chory is currently a director and professor at the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute For Biological Studies, and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Throughout her career, she did many studies on the growth of plants and their behavior in different conditions for which she received many prizes and distinctions. Indeed, in 2011, she became an elected Royal Society foreign member; more recently, she received the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the 2019 Princess of Asturias Award.

The research she is now leading has the potential to implement a solution that will slow the climate change. As human activity considerably increased the quantity of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, leading to a general increase of the planet’s temperature, Chory and her team at the Salk Institute found a way to make plants absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere and make the soil more fertile at the same time.

The process consists in making the roots of the plant grow bigger through genetic modification. The bigger the roots, the more the plant can absorb bury carbon in the ground in the from of suberin, a substance naturally rich in carbon that prevents water losses from the plant tissues as well as it protects against potential diseases and heals plant wounds.

This discovery can be crucial for agriculture as it would mean that we could grow crops more efficiently while considerably decreasing the concentration of the major greenhouse gas. It would help solving the problem of feeding of the rapidly increasing world population and the problem of climate change at once.

The research is indeed very admirable; however, Chory’s determination and contribution to the field is even more respectable.

In 2004, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The biologist lived now over a decade of struggle with the disease; she managed to reduce its effect with the help of medications and a brain implant and she is still continuing her research.

While there are many activists that encourage us to change our habits, that organize protests to encourage that action of governments, Chory’s devotion to stop climate change is extrinsic, tangible. What she has found is a concrete solution to help the world significantly. It really speaks to me since I want to go into the engineering field, and it’s all about solving problems in a tangible way in order to make the world a better place.

Nevertheless, Chory is a biologist and I do not want to be a biologist; my desire is to go in Electrical Engineering. We all have the same problem to solve; however, we took a different path. She uses nature to help nature while I’ll find ways to reduce the ever growing electrical consumption that also affect climate change.

Also, the fact that she may have found a possible solution to a problem that we knew about for over than a century is really inspiring as it tells people, especially those that like science, that they could also be the ones that find solutions like that. The fact that she is women that succeeded in science encourages other women to come in the STEM field.

Joanne Chory is an inspiration for many because she is an example of perseverance for a great cause. She implanted a vision for a better future that will make others follow her lead.

Joanne Chory

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