SIVB mourns the loss of Judi McDaniel who unexpectedly passed away on October 31, 2005 at the age of 50. Judi was a member of the SIVB for many years, attended several annual meetings, and made both oral and poster presentations. She, along with Gary Hanning and Dennis Gray, in Bob Conger’s lab, were instrumental in the development of the orchardgrass embryogenic tissue culture system that led to countless publications highlighted by a paper in the journal Science. Judi was the constant “mainstay” over the years in Bob Conger’s lab and literally worked with each of Bob’s graduate students, post-docs and visiting scientists over the past twenty plus years. Through these long-lasting friendships, Judi always enjoyed opportunities when the “gang” would get together at the SIVB meeting and always had a camera ready when Bob’s students and post-docs would meet in his room for a Tennessee reunion. The photo shown is from the 2003 meeting in Portland, Oregon (Front-Dennis Gray, Gary McDaniel, Plamen Denchev, Ludmila Ohnoutkova; Back-Dave Songstad, Judi McDaniel, Bob Conger, Donna Conger. Special thanks to Nancy Reichert for taking this photo).
On a personal level, Judi McDaniel had a positive impact on my life. I first met Judi in 1983 when I arrived at the University of Tennessee as a graduate research assistant in Bob Conger’s lab. This was the first time I had lived outside of my home state of South Dakota and to be honest, I did not know anyone in the state of Tennessee prior to arriving. Judi (along with her husband Gary), “took me under their wings” and made me feel at home. I can’t express how helpful they were to me at this stage of my career. Adjusting to a new environment is sometimes a difficult process and I do feel that the easy adjustment that occurred is in part due to their mentoring and coaching and has helped me in my career path by setting a solid stage for growth and development.
It was this very positive interaction that continued after I left UT. While at Pioneer Hi-Bred, I collaborated with Bob Conger, Plamen Denchev and Judi through a research project to genetically transform orchardgrass by microprojectile bombardment. Judi was instrumental in insuring that the proper genetic elements were in place within the plasmid to have reliable constructs for transformation. These results were published in 1997 in “Plant Cell Reports.”
In my career, I have been selected by my peers to serve in a leadership role within the Society for In Vitro Biology. This has given me the opportunity to reflect on where I have come from and where I am now. When I look back at my career, I often wonder what would have happened if a person like Judi was not there to help me get the strong foundation that is now in place. Certainly she is someone that helped to shape me into the scientist that I am today. Judi is someone that will not be forgotten and will leave good memories for so many of us for years to come.
Judi, I am one of many who will say that you will be missed.