The BSA Merit Award is the society's highest honor, granted for "outstanding contributions to botanical science," recognizing truly exceptional scientists in plant biology. Some past Merit Award recipients have won the Nobel Prize, National Medal of Science or election to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.
"I am deeply honored to have my name added to this botanical ‘hall of fame' that has existed since 1956, along with those of other great scholars," DeMason said. "It is also very satisfying to have my work recognized by those who are most familiar with it and who are best able to assess it in the context of the discipline. I thank the mentors of my formative years and all the students and post-docs I have worked with throughout my career. I have learned so much from all of you."
DeMason joined the UC Riverside faculty in 1978 immediately upon completion of her Ph.D. degree at UC Berkeley. She has received two previous national awards: the Centennial Award from the Botanical Society of America in 2006 and election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in 2009.
During her 30-year career DeMason has published 82 technical papers in peer-reviewed journals, 11 review papers, book chapters and symposium proceedings, and 23 semi-technical and non-technical papers.
She has worked on a range of topics in the past 30 years in her general area of expertise: mechanisms of plant development at the levels of the cell, tissue, organ and whole plant. For the past 15 years she has concentrated on studying the interactions between hormone and gene expression during the development of compound leaves using the garden pea as her model system.
She has developed numerous molecular tools that allow researchers to study auxin response in pea, and is an internationally recognized expert on the role of hormone regulation of LFY/UNI gene expression controlling compound leaf development.
DeMason explained that leaves are the "gateways" through which energy enters natural and agricultural, terrestrial ecosystems, and therefore drive vegetative and reproductive yield.
"The developmental potential of leaves has not yet been exploited for agronomic gain," she said. "Work of the kind done in my lab may allow us to bioengineer leaves to increase carbon production, sugar export, water use efficiency, resistance to pathogens, yield and to change other agronomic traits of interest in crop species."
The BSA promotes botany, the field of basic science dealing with the study and inquiry into the form, function, development, diversity, reproduction, evolution, and uses of plants and their interactions within the biosphere. It is one of the world's largest societies devoted to the study of plants and allied organisms. The society's Merit Award was instigated in 1956.
The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UC Riverside's enrollment of over 19,000 is expected to grow to 21,000 students by 2020. The campus is planning a medical school and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UC Riverside Palm Desert Graduate Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.