John McPherson CheesemanProfessor Emeritus, Department of Plant Biology
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801
For more than 30 years, as a teacher and researcher, my major interest was in the control and integration of activity in plants. What I did in my research, and my philosophy toward it, was heavily influenced by my teaching and my interactions with both undergraduate and graduate students. The courses I taught ranged from introductory biology and plant biology - both to biology students and to students meeting general education requirements - to upper level courses in environmental physiology, plant nutrition and plant form and function. All this reached its peak when I began teaching a field course in ecology and an honors course in organismal biology. In field ecology, along with Prof. Carol Augspurger, I spent 10 days, 24 hours a day, in venues all across the US, with students intensely interested in both the present and the future of ecology. In the honors course, by teaching both the lecture and lab components and interacting daily with an exceptionally intelligent and focussed group of students, I became more aware every day that what I did, and what they did, was potentially critically important to the future of the world. Add to this numerous workshops directed at high school teachers or international marine biology and forestry, the diversification of my research interests and approaches was inevitable.
My research was concentrated on the environmental physiology and organismal biology of plants spanning levels from field measurements of photosynthesis and other physiological processes, to laboratory biochemical and enzymatic assays, to molecular level characterizations of genes involved in the metabolism of stress tolerance and the control of photosynthesis, especially in the extremophyte mangrove species, Rhizophora mangle, and the "Arabidopsis relative", Schrenkiella parvula. Since retiring, I have, on the one hand, concentrated on summarizing what I learned both as science and as the art of science, in review articles (Check the Reviews link). This has served to make me even more aware of the complexity of integrated organismal function. Together with the outcome of the organismal biology course, it has also made it increasingly clear that the dual whammies of climate change and population growth (especially in poor urban areas throughout the world) will result in ever increasing food insecurity and the conflicts that will inevitably come from that.
My most recent project, in conjuntion with Simon Barak at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, has been to create a website devoted to eXtreme plants. Anyone wishing to contribute is most heartily emplored to do so.
Last updated: 9/28/17