Curious where an undergraduate research project at Cornell might lead? For Zach Lippman, Professor and HHMI Investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship, the seeds of his current work can be found in his undergraduate research with Steve Tanksley in Cornell’s Department of Plant Breeding.
Lippman who graduated from Cornell with a B.S. in Plant Sciences in 2000, conducted research in the Tanksley lab while a student, culminating in two publications focused on identification of genetic loci controlling size and shape of tomatoes.
- van der Knaap, E., Lippman, Z. B., and Tanksley, S. D. 2002. Extremely elongated tomato fruit controlled by four quantitative trait loci with epistatic interactions. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 104:241-247.
- Lippman, Z., and Tanksley, S. D. 2001. Dissecting the Genetic Pathway to Extreme Fruit Size in Tomato Using a Cross Between the Small-Fruited Wild Species Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium and esculentum var. Giant Heirloom. Genetics 158:413-422.
Lippman went on to earn a Ph.D. with Rob Martienssen at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), researching epigenetic regulation of transposons in Arabidopsis. He resumed work on tomato as a postdoctoral researcher with Dani Zamir at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and continued with this system upon returning to CSHL in 2008.
Lippman’s program at CSHL focuses on the architecture and development of flowering shoots in tomato and related plants. This research is uncovering strategies for domestication of wild plants with the aid of gene editing technologies – work that Lippman is conducting in collaboration with Joyce Van Eck, Associate Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute and adjunct faculty member in the SIPS Plant Breeding and Genetics Section. Some of Lippman’s recent publications concern the rapid domestication of groundcherry with genome editing, interactions of specific genetic loci influencing domestication success, and a review in Science on the need for greater genetic diversity in our food crops.
MacArthur Fellowships are awarded annually to 20 – 30 people, with $625,000 paid out over five years. Recipients have included numerous Cornell faculty and alumni since the program’s inception in 1981. Rebecca Nelson, current SIPS Professor and Scientific Director for the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1998.
- Lippman web site at Cold Spring Harbor
- Lippman MacArthur Fellow profile
- Lippman profile in The Scientist
- Eshed, Y., and Lippman, Z. B. 2019. Revolutions in agriculture chart a course for targeted breeding of old and new crops. Science:eaax0025.
- Soyk, S., Lemmon, Z. H., Sedlazeck, F. J., Jiménez-Gómez, J. M., Alonge, M., Hutton, S. F., Van Eck, J., Schatz, M. C., and Lippman, Z. B. 2019. Duplication of a domestication locus neutralized a cryptic variant that caused a breeding barrier in tomato. Nature Plants 5:471-479.
- Lemmon, Z. H., Reem, N. T., Dalrymple, J., Soyk, S., Swartwood, K. E., Rodriguez-Leal, D., Van Eck, J., and Lippman, Z. B. 2018. Rapid improvement of domestication traits in an orphan crop by genome editing. Nature Plants 4:766-770.