The New Phytologist Tansley Medals 2013




The New Phytologist Tansley Medal is awarded to scientists who have made outstanding contributions to plant science within 5 yr of receiving their PhD (Woodward & Hetherington, 2010, 2011; Dolan, 2012, 2013). In 2013 medals were awarded to Jing-Ke Weng, formerly of the Salk Institute, La Jolla (CA, USA), and now based at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, USA), and Li-Qing Chen from the Carnegie Institution, Stanford (CA, USA) (see Box 1).

Jing-Ke Weng is a plant biochemist with extensive experience in genomics and metabolomics and has made major contributions to our understanding of the evolution of metabolic pathways. Jing-Ke completed a PhD with Clint Chapple in 2009 at Purdue University (IN, USA) and discovered how the metabolic network leading to the formation of a-pyrone synthesis was assembled during evolution. His time in Indiana was very productive with a series of high impact papers on metabolic pathways in a variety of organisms including Selaginella moellendorffii and Arabidopsis thaliana. Jing-Ke's minireview entitled ‘The evolutionary paths towards complexity: a metabolic perspective ’ is published in this issue of New Phytologist (Weng, pp. 1141–1149).

Li-Qing Chen has a background in forest genetics and nutrient acquisition. Li-Qing has published high profile papers outlining important breakthroughs at each stage in her career. She discovered novel regulators of the AKT1 K+ transporter in A. thaliana during her PhD research with Wei-Hua Wu at China Agricultural University in Beijing. She moved to Wolf Frommer's laboratory (in the Carnegie Institution, Stanford) in 2007 and discovered a role for SWEET proteins in phloem loading. Her minireview entitled ‘SWEET sugar transporters for phloem transport and pathogen nutrition’ is published in this issue of New Phytologist (Chen, pp. 1150–1155).

There were two excellent runners up. Elizabeth Wolkovich, from the University of British Columbia (BC, Canada), whose minireview ‘Progress towards an interdisciplinary science of plant phenology: building predictions across space, time and species diversity ’ is published in this issue (Wolkovich et al., pp. 1156–1162). Jacquelyn Gill from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI, USA), published a minireview entitled ‘Ecological impacts of the Later Quaternary megaherbivore extinctions’ (Gill, pp. 1163–1169).

Congratulations to all our finalists on their achievements. The New Phytologist will keep a watchful eye on their burgeoning careers.



Jing-Ke Weng and Li-Qing Chen awarded Tansley Medal 2013 for excellence in plant science


Jing-Ke Weng is a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and an Assistant Professor of Biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jing-Ke received his BS degree in Biotechnology from Zhejiang University in 2003, where he completed undergraduate research in neuroscience studying the influence of intermittent hypoxia on learning and memory in neonatal mice, and also research in plant science on iodine biofortification of vegetables.

Jing-Ke undertook PhD research with Dr Clint Chapple at Purdue University on the evolution of phenylpropanoid metabolism in land plants, and in his graduate work Jing-Ke resolved the molecular mechanisms underlying the independent occurrences of syringyl lignin in the two major lineages of vascular plants, lycophytes and angiosperms, which diverged from each other > 400 million yr ago. He also discovered a new class of secondary metabolites, arabidopyrones, and further defined the biosynthesis pathway and evolutionary trajectory underpinning their emergence in Arabidopsis.

Jing-Ke was a Pioneer postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute under the mentorship of Dr Joseph Noel, where he studied the structure–function relationships underpinning the evolution of a number of specialized metabolic enzyme families in plants, including type III polyketide synthases and BAHD acyltransferases. He joined the faculty of the Whitehead Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013.

For more information on Jing-Ke, visit or contact him directly at


Li-Qing Chen was born in a small village in Shanxi province in northern China. She decided to commit herself to plant science research after receiving a master's degree in forest genetics and tree breeding from Nanjing Forestry University in 2002.

Li-Qing completed her PhD at China Agricultural University in Beijing and during this period Li-Qing, together with her colleagues, discovered the key CBL–CIPK–AKT1 regulatory pathway when plants were under low potassium stress.

Li-Qing has worked in Dr Wolf Frommer's laboratory at the Carnegie Institution, Stanford since 2007, and after taking over a project initiated by an undergraduate student she made significant progress by characterizing a novel class of sugar transporters, SWEETs, which are important for many physiological processes and for pathogen nutritional gain. One year after the characterization of SWEET, Li-Qing, together with another graduate student, made a breakthrough research finding which identified SWEETs as a key player during the sucrose phloem loading process.

For more information on Li-Qing, visit or contact her at

Jing-Ke and Li-Qing will each receive a £2000 prize in association with the Tansley Medal award