Yu Su-May

Femme's & Women's History MOnth: Yu Su-May

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Yu Su-May is a Taiwanese molecular plant biologist who is working to reduce world hunger by improving rice yields.

Growing up in the central Taiwanese town of Taichung, she often helped with her family’s rice paddies. She experienced the hardships and pressures that are a part of everyday life for farmers. “I saw how farmers had to work hard to produce crops and only earned a meager income… Those scenes have always lingered in my mind. My hope is that I can help them improve their yields and profits.” As a celebrated research fellow at the Institute of Molecular Biology at Taiwan’s leading research institution, Academia Sinica, Yu is working toward that dream. According to Taiwan’s CTimes, Su-May’s work in rice genomics has earned her the title: “godmother of paddy rice.”

Majoring in plant pathology, she earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees at National Chung Hsing University in Taichung. At the University of Arkansas, she earned her doctoral degree in plant pathology and biology in 1984. As a postdoctoral fellow, Yu conducted research at the University of Rochester’s Department of Biology and at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In 1987 she continued her research at Cornell University. In 1989 she returned to Taiwan beginning her career as a molecular plant biologist at the distinguished research institute, Academia Sinica.

For over 20 years she has been working with paddy rice gene transfers, looking for specific genes to help rice cope with environmental conditions like poor soil, drought, and temperature fluctuations. Yu has also established the Taiwan Rice Insertional Mutagenesis Database, which has decoded 60,000 genetic mutations. Her work has raised rice yields by 40–50%.

In 2014, L’Oréal Taiwan, the National Women’s League of the ROC, and the Wu ­Chien­-shiung Education Foundation presented their seventh annual “Outstanding Women in Science Award” to Dr. Yu Su-May for her accomplishments in applied molecular biology.

Women’s History Month 3.24.15 Yu Su-May