Dr. Joachim Messing is the fourth Director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, a University Professor of Molecular Biology, and the first holder of the Selman A. Waksman Chair in Molecular Genetics.
Since his arrival at Rutgers in 1985, Dr. Messing has been instrumental in initiating many research programs in the Life Sciences at Rutgers. He founded two new departments at Rutgers and served as their founding chair, the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and the Department of Genetics. Under his leadership, the institute also provided incubation space for two Advanced Technology Centers, the Centers for Agricultural Biotechnology and Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine. Messing spearheaded the development of technological tools for deciphering and engineering genomes from bacteria to man. He and his colleagues developed the so-called "shotgun DNA sequencing" method in the early eighties using universal synthetic primers first with the M13mp series and then the pUC series in conjunction with the JM series of host strains. Because these tools were used throughout the life sciences, his publications became the most frequently cited ones in all sciences for the entire decade of 1981-1990. In 2007, Dr. Messing was inducted as a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the oldest continuously existing scientific association in the world. Membership in the academy is among the highest honors accorded for scientific accomplishment. In 2009, with the creation of the Selman Waksman Chair by the Rutgers Board of Governors, Messing was appointed to this newly endowed chair in acknowledgement of his contributions both to the university and science.
Besides his early work in molecular biology Messing has focused on plant genetics. His laboratory has studied in particular genes that are expressed during the development of cereal seeds. He is well known for the genomic studies of grass genomes and his laboratory has contributed to the sequencing of rice, sorghum, maize, and Brachypodium. These genomic sequences have permitted his laboratory to study the organization and evolution of the genes that control the supply of proteins for nutrition. More recently, his laboratory has used RNA interference to sudy the role of these proteins in seed development and molecular breeding. One of the new initiatives of his laboratory investigates the potential of sweet sorghum and duckweed as alternative bio-energy sources. Publications are tagged in categories of Bioenergy, Epigenetics, Genome Evolution, Genome Structure, Protein Quality, RNAi, and Shotgun DNA Sequencing. Out of 200 publications prior to 2008 only representative samples are listed.