North Carolina State University

MCB PROGRAM DIRECTOR STEVEN CLOUSE NAMED 2016 AAAS FELLOW

Dr. Steven Clouse is standing in front of green trees.

Dr. Steven Clouse, a Cellular Dynamics and Function Program Director in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and Professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has been elected a 2016 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS). Since 1874, the AAAS has bestowed this honor on select members for their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” Dr. Clouse was nominated by peers in the Section on Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources “for distinguished contributions to the field of plant biology, particularly for pioneering studies of brassinosterorid signaling and plant receptor kinases.”

After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis and completing postdoctoral work in plant molecular biology at the Salk Institute, Dr. Clouse began his independent research career in 1988 as an assistant professor at San Diego State University. At that time, a class of naturally occurring plant compounds termed “brassinosteroids” had been structurally characterized, but little was known about their molecular mechanism of action. In collaboration with Dr. Trevor McMorris and Dr. Michael Baker, experts in steroid chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Clouse and his students cloned one of the first brassinosteroid-regulated genes and identified one of the first brassinosteroid steroid-insensitive mutants in plants. The launch of this research project was supported by a Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER) from NSF – the first of many NSF awards received over a 25 year period that were essential to developing a research program to determine the mechanisms of brassinosteroid action in plant growth and development.

In 1996, Dr. Clouse moved to North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He began a collaboration with Dr. Steven Huber, a kinase biochemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Michael Goshe, an expert in proteomics and mass spectrometry at North Carolina State University, to determine the role of protein phosphorylation in brassinosteroid signaling. This work was supported by several NSF grants from MCB, culminating in two large Arabidopsis 2010 program awards that allowed the work to expand dramatically both in terms of the size of the group as well as new research avenues involving high throughput proteomic approaches.

When reflecting on his election as AAAS fellow, Dr. Clouse said, “I was very pleased that my peers considered our 25 year research effort on brassinosteroid action to be worthwhile. The success of the program was the result of hard work by more than 30 postdoctoral scientists and graduate students and being fortunate to have excellent collaborators, particularly Drs. Huber and Goshe. The initial belief of NSF program directors in the importance of our work and the continued and growing NSF support over the years was crucial for the success of the program, both in terms of research and training, and is greatly appreciated. I feel fortunate to be able to serve as an NSF program director near the end of my career, where I can perhaps contribute by identifying new projects that may continue to enjoy the long-term success that we experienced.”

Please join MCB as we congratulate Dr. Steven Clouse on his election to the rank of AAAS Fellow!

This work is partially funded by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, Award #MCB – 1021363, #MCB – 0419819, and #MCB – 0742411.

MCB welcomes Dr. Steven Clouse, Program Director for the Cellular Dynamics and Function Cluster

What were you doing before you came to the NSF?

I was a professor for 28 years; 21 years at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and seven years at San Diego State University. I had an active research program on plant hormone signal transduction which involved postdoctoral scientists, graduate students, undergraduates and high school student interns and several collaborators in the U.S., Europe and China. I also taught graduate courses in plant biochemistry and plant molecular biology.

What attracted you to work for NSF?

My research was funded by NSF continuously for 30 years, starting with an NSF postdoctoral fellowship in plant biology and concluding last summer with a large grant on plant proteomics. I also reviewed many NSF proposals and served on several NSF panels during that period, so I was familiar with the NSF mission and operational procedures. I wanted to contribute something to NSF before retiring and also be exposed to the breadth of science that NSF funds.

What was your first impression of NSF? Has this impression changed since you began serving as a rotator?

I was impressed by the collegiality of the program directors and the helpfulness and skill of the support staff. This impression has continued to grow during the two months I have been here.

What are the personal goals you most want to accomplish while at NSF?

To work with my colleagues to fund the best possible science in our discipline and broaden my scientific perspective from a focus on my own individual research to interdisciplinary approaches.

What has surprised you most about working at NSF?

The large amount of new software that needed to be learned to accomplish the different tasks a program director is required to do.

What are some of the challenges of serving as a rotator?

Starting my rotation just weeks before panel season required learning a lot of different things quickly and reading a very large number of proposals in order to assign panelists and reviewers in a timely manner.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a program director at NSF?

A very worthwhile endeavor, particularly if your research program is well established and can continue to function with periodic visits to the home institution. If timing is flexible, begin the rotation several months before the first panel duties.

When your friends/colleagues find out that you work at NSF, what do they say or ask?

They are impressed and think it is a good move.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Since I really have only just started, I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and learning the fine points of becoming a good program director.