Susan Wessler is the University of California President’s Chair and Distinguished Professor of Genetics at the University of California, Riverside. In 2011 she was elected Home Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, the first women to hold this position in the 150 year history of the National Academy. She is a molecular geneticist known for her contributions to the field of transposon biology, specifically on the roles of plant transposable elements in gene and genome evolution. A native of New York City, she received a bachelor’s degree in biology from SUNY Stony Brook (1974), a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cornell University (1980) and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1980-1982). She began her career at the University of Georgia in 1983 where she remained until moving to UC Riverside in 2010.
Wessler is co-author of over 120 research articles. She is an Associate Editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is on the Editorial Board of Current Opinions in Plant Biology and on the Board of Reviewing Editors of the journal Science.
Wessler has contributed extensively to educational initiatives, including co-authorship of the widely used genetics textbook, Introduction to Genetic Analysis. As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor (2006), she adapted her research program for the classroom by developing the Dynamic Genome Courses where incoming freshman can experience the excitement of scientific discovery.
She is the recipient of several awards including the inaugural Distinguished Scientist Award (2007) from the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA), the Stephen Hales Prize (2011) from the American Society of Plant Biologists, and the Excellence in Science Award from FASEB (2012). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1998), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2007), and the American Philosophical Society (2013).