Noel T. and Diane III Keen Endowed Fund

CEPCEB annually sponsors an annual special seminar and awards ceremony where an invited, prominent scientist presents his or her work. In 2006, this seminar was titled the Noel T. Keen Lecture after one of the first supporters and members of CEPCEB, Dr. Noel Keen. Dr. Keen, who passed away in April 2002, was an eminent scholar who brought considerable recognition to UCR. Dr. Keen’s wife, Diane, generously decided to establish an endowment to help support CEPCEB’s special lecture and in 2013, the lecture became known as the Distinguished Noel T. Keen Lecture.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Noel spent his entire academic career at UCR. He joined the UCR community in 1968, having earned his degrees in botany and plant pathology at Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He earned a stellar reputation with research that examined how plants recognize disease agents or pests, a trait that can be implanted in other crop varieties to boost food supplies. Along with former UCR biochemists Fran Jurnak and Marilyn D. Yoder, Noel discovered a new bacterial enzyme responsible for rot in potatoes, tomatoes, apples and tropical plants.

Noel, holder of the Johnson Endowed Chair in Molecular Biology, chaired the UCR Department of Plant Pathology from 1983 to 1989.  He served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals and as keynote speaker at numerous conferences. At the time of his death, Noel was also serving as President of the American Phytopathological Society (APS), an international scientific organization devoted to the study of plant diseases and their control.

His innovative work influenced the research directions of many laboratories worldwide. His research showed that plants have chemical recognition systems, much like animals have immune systems, which trigger a defense response. His work provides the scientific foundation for breeding or genetically engineering plants with disease resistance, which will reduce the use of chemical pesticides.

Noel was UCR’s 1996 Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest honor granted by the campus for research. He had more than 170 technical publications, a string of honorary titles and a legacy of training accomplished graduate students.

The Center for Plant Cell Biology is extremely appreciative of Diane Keen’s generous support and is honored to name its most special lecture in memory of Dr. Noel Keen’s significant contribution to the world of science and the mission of CEPCEB.

Previous Distinguished Noel T. Keen Lecturers

Year Distinguished Lecturer
2003 FREDERICK AUSUBEL
Dept. of Genetics,
Harvard Medical School
2004 JEFF DANGL 
Department of Biology,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2005 CHRIS SOMERVILLE 
Dept. of Plant Biology,
Carnegie Institution of Washington/
Stanford University
2006 JOANNE CHORY 
Plant Biology Laboratory,
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
2007 BERNHARD PALSSON
Dept. of Bioengineering,
University of California, San Diego 
2008 GLORIA CORUZZI
Dept. of Biology,
New York University 
2009 JOSEPH R. ECKER
Plant Biology Laboratory,
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
2010 PHILIP BENFEY
Biology Dept.
Duke Inst. for Genome Science and Policy,
Duke University
2011 ROB MARTIENSSEN
Professor
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
2012 JAMES CARRINGTON
President
Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center 
2013 ELLIOT MEYEROWITZ
George W. Beadle Professor of Biology
California Institute  of Technology
2014 EVA BENKOVA
Assistant Professor
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) 
2015 PAMELA GREEN
Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair/
Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences and
Professor of Marine Studies
University of Delaware
2016 OTTOLINE LEYSER 
Professor/Director
Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, England
2017 DAME CAROLINE DEAN    
Project Leader of Cell and Developmental Biology 
John Innes Centre
2018 CHRISTINA D. SMOLKE
Professor and W.M. Keck Foundation Faculty Scholar in the Department of Bioengineering
Stanford University