Noel T. Keen

Noel Thomas Keen (August 13, 1940 – April 18, 2002) was an American plant physiologist. He spent his career teaching at University of California, Riverside (UCR). His research focused on the varied ability of cultivars to detect and resist pathogens.

Noel T. Keen
Born(1940-08-13)August 13, 1940
DiedApril 18, 2002(2002-04-18) (aged 61)[1]
B.S in botany, Iowa State University (1963)
William and Sue Johnson Endowed Chair of Molecular Plant Pathology (1997-2002)[3]
Spouse(s)Diane Ill Keen[6]
UCR Faculty Research Lecturer (1996)[3]
  • USDA Secretary's Honor Award for Personal and Professional Excellence (1996)
  • CSREES Award of Merit (1996)
  • John Innes Institute Gatsby Traveling Fellow Lectureship (1992)[5]
Noel T. Keen signature.tif

Early life and educationEdit

Noel Keen was born in Marshalltown, Iowa and grew up on a farm, attending a rural school.[7] He first attended high school in LaMoille, Iowa where he played basketball until the school was absorbed into the high school in State Center.[8] At State Center he competed on the debate team until he graduated in 1958.[6][9] Keen attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees. His master's thesis discussed the impact of Pyrenochaeta terrestris on onions.[7] Keen was awarded his Ph.D from University of Wisconsin–Madison. He published 12 separate documents based on his thesis work, which merited him a job teaching at University of California, Riverside (UCR) despite not having any postdoctoral experience.[10]


Keen arrived at UCR in 1968 and was promoted to associate professor in plant pathology in 1972.[11] Keen studied the biochemical interactions responsible for resistance to Phytophthora sojae in one cultivar of soybean but not another, publishing the first findings on the subject in 1975.[10] He coined the term "elicitor" to describe the chemicals given off by invading organisms that elicited phytoalexin response in the host plant. This work led him to identify the single gene in Pseudomonas syringae responsible for producing elicitors.[5][4] Since 1977 Keen spoke at many National Science Foundation-funded international conferences, particularly with the Japanese scientists like Masaaki Yoshikawa.[12] In 1997 Keen co-founded Connecting Research and Economic Development for the 21st Century (CORE21), a business-academia collective. He served on its board of directors until 2002.[4][13][14]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 1995 Keen was awarded the American Phytopathological Society's annual award, named after Ruth Allen (herself a plant pathologist), alongside fellow professor Brian Staskawicz.[15][16] The two had worked together in 1980 at the International Plant Research Institute in San Carlos, California in order to use recombinant DNA techniques to clone bacterial avirulence genes. Their work confirmed an aspect of the Gene-for-gene relationship.[4]

Keen was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.[17] In 2000, an image of Keen standing next to the parallel β-helix structure of pectate lyase C was added as part of the Gluck Gateway Mural positioned under the California State Route 60 overpass between the University campus and the city of Riverside.[18] Keen had discovered the parallel helix to be pectate lyase C's third folding form during a collaboration with X-ray crystallographers studying Erwinia chrysanthemi.[5]

The American Phytopathological Society awards an annual cash prize in Keen's name for "research excellence in molecular plant pathology."[19][20] University of California, Riverside hosts an annual lecture named for Keen focusing on plant biology and pathology. The lecture series is endowed by the Noel T. and Diane Ill Keen Fund.[21] In 2003 University of California, Riverside named their renovated bio-agricultural library "Noel T. Keen Hall."[22] Keen Hall houses UCR's stem cell research center.[23]


Keen was the victim of a 1999 car crash. Subsequent to the crash, blood tests revealed Keen had leukemia.[3] He remained active until weeks before his death in 2002.[4][24]

Selected published worksEdit



  1. ^ Staskawicz, Collmer & Cooksey 2014, p. 1.
  2. ^ "Beachy, Croteau, Keen, and Soll Elected to Academy" (PDF). ASPP News. American Society of Plant Physiologists. 24 (3): 3. May–June 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  3. ^ a b c Staskawicz, Collmer & Cooksey 2014, p. 10.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Collmer, Alan; Gold, Scott (September 2007). "Noel T. Keen—Pioneer Leader in Molecular Plant Pathology". Annual Review of Phytopathology. Annual Reviews. 45: 25–42. doi:10.1146/annurev.phyto.44.070505.143350. PMID 17459000.
  5. ^ a b c d e J. J. Sims; D. A. Cooksey; D. D. Focht; B. C. Hyman; L. L. Walling; F. A. Jurnak. "In Memoriam Noel T. Keen". University of California.
  6. ^ a b "Noel T. Keen, 61" (PDF). Mid-Iowa Enterprise. April 25, 2002.
  7. ^ a b Staskawicz, Collmer & Cooksey 2014, p. 2.
  8. ^ Scaffer, Barb (July 2009). "do you remember?" (PDF). Past Times: 3, 6.
  9. ^ "Debaters Win in District Contest". State Center Enterprise. March 6, 1958. p. 1 – via
  10. ^ a b Staskawicz, Collmer & Cooksey 2014, p. 4.
  11. ^ "Academic Promotions and Appointments, 1972-73". University Bulletin. University of California. 21 (5): 29. September 18, 1972.
  12. ^ Staskawicz, Collmer & Cooksey 2014, pp. 3–4.
  13. ^ Flanigan, James (June 17, 1998). "Removing Roadblocks to Prosperity". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Andrews, John H., ed. (2010). And One Hand on the Bench:The First Century of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (PDF). University of Wisconsin. pp. 29–30. ISBN 9780615353074. LCCN 2010925155. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  15. ^ "Berkeleyan Gazette". University of California, Berkeley. May 3, 1995.
  16. ^ American Phytopathological Society. "Ruth F. Allen". Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  17. ^ Silverman, Edward (June 9, 1997). "New NAS Members, 1997". The Scientist.
  18. ^ Staskawicz, Collmer & Cooksey 2014, pp. 7, 9.
  19. ^ "Noel T. Keen Award for Research Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology". American Phytopathological Society.
  20. ^ "Noel T. Keen Award for Research Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology". American Phytopathological Society. Archived from the original on 2017-02-23. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  21. ^ "Keen Endowed Fund". University of California, Riverside.
  22. ^ "Former Bio-Agricultural Library to be Named "Noel T. Keen Hall"". University of California, Riverside. April 18, 2003.
  23. ^ "UC Riverside's new state-of-the-art technology to accelerate stem cell research". February 2, 2010.
  24. ^ "UCR Loses Distinguished Scientist to Cancer". University of California, Riverside. April 19, 2002.


Further readingEdit