Peter Hepler, professor emeritus of biology, has been named an honorary fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, the highest award offered by the organization.
Hepler is being recognized for his contributions to the applications of light and electron microscopy to the plant sciences. “Throughout his career he has remained at the forefront of new developments and has produced a number of cutting-edge papers detailing his novel and inspiring research,” said the RMS announcement.
Helper was one of the first scientists to apply the new glutaraldehyde fixation to plant cells, revealing for the first time, bundles of microtubules under the plasma membrane of developing tracheary elements. His was one of, if the not the first, report suggesting a co-alignment of microtubules with cell wall cellulose microtubules – a topic that engaged plant cell biologists for the next 50 years.
He was also the first plant scientist to employ microinjection techniques to study the incorporation of fluorescent tubulin into microtubules in cells. He described the dynamic turnover of tubulin in plant microtubule arrays, well before capable fluorescent protein technology, thus proving that plant microtubules are as dynamic as those in animal cells.
The second half of Hepler’s career centred around his interest in calcium fluxes in cells and in particular researching calcium in growing pollen tubes. He was the first to publish on the pulsed growth of pollen tubes, calcium fluxes in the tubes and actin dynamics in the tube tip.
With only 65 individuals able to be an honorary fellow at any time, they are only presented to the most eminent and celebrated scientists in the field of microscopy, according to the RMS. Potential honorary fellows must be nominated and recommended by five or more current fellows of the RMS. The proposal is then put before the RMS council, which has absolute discretion in approving or rejecting the nomination.
Hepler and the two other new honorary fellows were announced at the Botanical Microscopy Meeting held this week at Exeter University in the U.K..
Peter Nellist, president of the RMS, said, “I believe that it is paramount that we recognise influential achievements in microscopy just as much as we engage and inspire the next generation of microscopists. Our new honorary fellows are extremely highly regarded not only in their field, but also by the wider community for their cutting-edge research and contribution to the field.”