Christopher SomervilleThe director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Plant Biology at Stanford University, Christopher Somerville, 1974 BSc, 1976 MSc, 1978 PhD, 1997 DSc (Honorary), developed a system to speed up identification of the plant genes responsible for any given characteristic of the plant. This pioneering achievement underlies much of the work now being done throughout the world to transfer desirable plant genes. Dr Somerville's innovative system is based upon the weed Arabidopsis, with which he worked while a student and later a faculty member at the University of Alberta. In 1982, he moved to Michigan State University, where he continued his distinguished scientific career until leaving for Stanford in 1994. As a result of his contributions related to plant molecular biology, Dr Somerville has been elected to fellowship in the Royal Societies of London and Canada and to membership in the US National Academy of Sciences — one of very few people to concurrently hold these honours, which constitute the highest scientific recognition in these three countries.
Somerville is a 1997 recipient of the University of Alberta Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award.