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6 de agosto de 2010

Profile: Douglas and Pamela Soltis: The Power of Two

Science 6 August 2010:
Vol. 329. no. 5992, pp. 623 - 625
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5992.62

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Profile: Douglas and Pamela Soltis:

The Power of Two

Elizabeth Pennisi

A University of Florida couple studying the evolution of flowering plants shows the value of doubled genomes—and joined careers.

Figure 1

Married, with plants. Douglas and Pamela Soltis work together in all aspects of their careers.


[Larger version of this image]

PULLMAN, WASHINGTON—When Pamela Soltis first joined her husband, Douglas, on the faculty at Washington State University, Pullman, they wrote separate grants and ran separate research programs. But they worked side by side in the field and in the greenhouse and read and critiqued each other's grant proposals and papers. More often than not, they also worked together in the lab. "We knew we were interested in a lot of the same things," Pam recalls. Eventually, they gave up trying to work independently.

Today, more than 25 years later, they are known collectively as the "Solti." "We're generally viewed as one person," Pam says. True, they have separate appointments at the University of Florida, Gainesville, she at the natural history museum and he in the biology department. But students, grants, courses, publications, talks, even accolades are shared. They studied in London on the same Fulbright scholarship and were co-awardees on an international prize. "Everything they do, they do together," says Michael Donoghue, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University.

"They are the most powerful, productive couple that may have ever been in botany, certainly in my generation," says John Kress, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The Soltises helped bring plant systematics into the molecular age, according to peers. And their innovations have led to firsts in "approaches to questions and ultimately first answers to questions," says Vaughan Symonds, a former postdoc now at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Early adopters of new techniques—including molecular DNA tools—as students in the 1980s, the Soltises have shown how rapid progress can be when two minds focus on a single research program. Says Jeffrey Doyle, a systematist at Cornell University, "They are so energetic and active that seeing Doug and Pam moving into your areas is a little frightening."

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