Deborah Delmer

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Deborah Delmer
Alma materIndiana University, University of California, San Diego.
AwardsASPB Leadership in Science Public Service Award, Anselme Payen Award
Scientific career
FieldsPlant pathology
InstitutionsUniversity of Colorado, Michigan State University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of California, Davis, Rockefeller Foundation

Deborah Pierson Delmer is an American plant pathologist, and professor emeritus at University of California, Davis.[1][2] She was one of the first scientists to discover the enzymes and biochemical mechanisms for tryptophan synthesis.[3]

Delmer became president of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) as of 1999.[4][5] Delmer was awarded the 2011 ASPB Leadership in Science Public Service Award[6] and the 2003 Anselme Payen Award.[7]


Delmer earned a degree in biochemistry with departmental honors at Indiana University. Next she attended the University of California, San Diego, where she identified the pathway of tryptophan biosynthesis in plants, an area that others had not studied.[8] She used Nicotiana tabacum as a model.[3] She received her Ph.D. in cellular biology in 1968.[8][5]

Delmer then did postdoctoral work with Peter Albersheim at the University of Colorado. She successfully purified the enzyme sucrose synthase and studied its role in synthesizing and degrading sucrose. She also did postdoctoral work at UCSD with biologist Stanley Eli Mills.[8]

In 1974 Delmer became a professor at the Plant Research Laboratory of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. She began to study the mechanisms by which plants polymerize glucose molecules and synthesize cellulose for their cell walls, using cotton fiber as a model system. An important discovery was demonstrating that both plants and animals use lipids as an intermediate step in protein glycosylation.[8]

As of 1987 Delmer accepted a faculty position at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[8][9] Using a combination of approaches from molecular biology and genetics, Delmer and her collaborators developed a cDNA library and were the first to identify a plant gene involved in the synthesis of cellulose.[8]

As of 1997, Delmer returned to the United States, where she became chair of the Section of Plant Biology at the University of California, Davis. One of her research experiments there determined that sterylglucoside is a primer for the initiation of cellulose synthesis and the creation of a new cellulose chain.[8]

In 2002, Delmer became a Director of the Rockefeller Foundation.[5][8] Her work there has focused primarily on agricultural development in Africa. She has emphasized the need for plant biology to become a translational science. She encourages scientists to address in-the-field problems faced by farmers, such as falling rates of crop production under conditions of stress and low inputs.[8]

Delmer sits on the board of The American Chestnut Foundation.[10] She served as the editor-in-chief of the Annual Review of Plant Biology from 2002-2004.[11][12]


  1. ^ "Deborah P. Delmer University of California, Davis". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  2. ^ "Deborah P. Delmer". College of Biological Sciences. 2018-02-14. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  3. ^ a b Haslam, Edwin (1974). The shikimate pathway. London: Butterworth. p. 39. ISBN 9781483161181. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  4. ^ "ASPB Past Presidents". American Society of Plant Biologists. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
  5. ^ a b c "Dr. Deborah Delmer". Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  6. ^ American Society of Plant Biologists (11 May 2011). "ASPB names 2011 award recipients". EurekaAlerts. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  7. ^ "The Anselme Payen Award". Cellulose and Renewable Materials. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Zagorski, N. (2005-10-25). "Profile of Deborah P. Delmer". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (44): 15736–15738. Bibcode:2005PNAS..10215736Z. doi:10.1073/pnas.0506847102. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 1276077. PMID 16249334.
  9. ^ Rogers, Katie (2020-03-09). "ASPB Member Spotlight – Deborah Delmer". Plant Science Today. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  10. ^ "Our Board of Directors". The American Chestnut Foundation. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  11. ^ Jones, Russell L. (1 June 2001). "Preface by Russell L. Jones". Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology. 52 (1). doi:10.1146/annurev.pp.52.010101.100001. ISSN 1040-2519. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  12. ^ Delmer, Deborah (2 June 2004). "Preface by the Editor". Annual Review of Plant Biology. 55 (1). doi:10.1146/annurev.pp.55.042204.100001. ISSN 1543-5008. Retrieved 8 October 2021.