Plant science faculty member named Styer Professor

September 21, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Mark Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, recently was named the J. Franklin Styer Professor of Horticultural Botany.

The Styer Professorship, created in 1990 by an endowment from late Penn State alumnus J. Franklin Styer, is intended to supplement departmental support for outstanding faculty and further the scholar's contributions to teaching, research and service.

For more than two decades, Guiltinan has directed the Endowed Program in the Molecular Biology of Cacao — Penn State's first fully endowed research program. Begun in 1986 with a $1.5 million contribution from the American Cocoa Research Institute and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the endowment has helped to leverage nearly $4.7 million in additional support from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

"Mark Guiltinan has led an innovative research program that is helping to transform the way we develop crop plants that are more productive, vigorous and disease resistant," said Erin Connolly, head of the college's plant science department. "This work promises to create a more sustainable way of life for smallholder farmers in cocoa-producing countries, a more reliable source of cocoa beans for chocolate manufacturers, and a stable supply of high-quality chocolate for consumers worldwide. His contributions make him a worthy holder of the Styer Professorship."

Under Guiltinan's leadership, faculty and student researchers in his lab created one of the first genetic maps of cocoa and contributed to the sequencing of the entire cocoa genome; characterized a large number of genes involved in disease resistance and quality traits such as lipid and flavonoid biosynthesis; developed and published several innovative methods for the study of functional genomics in cacao; and developed a method — somatic embryogenesis — that enables the rapid propagation of elite cocoa plants.

"It's a big honor for me to follow in the footsteps of the previous Styer Professors, Richard Craig and Dan Stearns," Guiltinan said. "But I see this as a collaborative award that I share with all of the people I have worked with — undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, technicians and faculty, who have contributed to the success of my research and teaching program over the years."

Guiltinan holds a bachelor's degree in botany from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, and a doctorate in developmental and cell biology from the University of California, Irvine. After serving as a postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University, at Rhone Poulenc Agrochimie in France, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he joined the Penn State faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor, rising to the rank of full professor in 2001.

In 1996, Guiltinan took the reins of Penn State's endowed cocoa research program. In 2009, the U.S. Department of State named him a Fulbright Specialist, serving as a visiting scientist in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He teaches a course in plant biotechnology and has mentored scores of undergraduate and graduate students who have worked in his laboratory. 

J. Franklin Styer graduated from Penn State in 1922 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and earned a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in botany. In 1924, he took over his father’s nursery business, which included greenhouses, peonies, mushrooms and nursery stock. He died in 1996.

In addition to the professorship, in 1994 Styer established the J. Franklin and Agnes T. Styer Scholarship in Horticulture. In 1996, Styer’s estate also created a graduate fellowship for horticulture students in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

  • Mark Guiltinan 2013

    Mark Guiltinan, J. Franklin Styer Professor of Horticultural Botany.

    IMAGE: Penn State University

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 21, 2018