Govindjee, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Plant Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, since August 1, 1999.
B.Sc. (Chemistry, Botany and Zoology, 1952, University of Allahabad
M.Sc. (Botany; special paper: Plant Physiology, 1954, University of Allahabad) Advisor: Shri Ranjan
Ph. D. (Biophysics, 1960, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois)
Advisors: Robert Emerson (1956-1958); Eugene Rabinowitch (1958-1960)
Govindjee has been a pioneer in the area of photosynthesis research, with a primary focus on the function of the oxygen-evolving Photosystem II (PS II) in chloroplasts, especially through the use of chlorophyll (Chl) a fluorescence. His early discoveries, with his collaborators, revealed the two-light effect in Chl a fluorescence, established the participation of Chl a in both the light reactions, and showed the effect of the two-light reactions and two pigment systems in the reduction of NADP in chloroplasts.
Subsequent work, with several collaborators, provided: the first picosecond time-resolved measurements of the primary photochemistry of Photosystem II reaction centers; the first comprehensive theory of thermoluminescence from chloroplasts; and one of the earliest interpretations for the fluorescence transients up to a minute after illumination.
However, Professor Govindjee is best known for his extensive research, conducted with almost a dozen of his students and post-docs, on the unique role of bicarbonate on the electron acceptor side of Photosystem II, where it functions both in electron transfer and protonation events.
All in all, Govindjee and coworkers have published more than 250 research papers, 50 articles in symposia volumes and 15 chapters in books (see his web page: http://www.life.uiuc.edu/govindjee for details).
Govindjee has also been an immensely effective and energetic advocate for photosynthesis research and has dedicated his entire life to educating students and researchers throughout the World. He has served the photosynthesis community uniquely and with great dedication as Editor-in-chief of ‘Photosynthesis Research’, when he increased by four fold the number of pages published per year from < 400 to 1600. His advocacy and educational outreach have included numerous lectures around the World, delivered at international workshops, international conferences, in renowned Universities, and in remote Colleges, as well as 3 outstanding Scientific American articles (1965, 1974 and 1990), and more than 15 seminal reviews. He has also co-authored and edited many books, including a remarkable 12 year period as Series Editor of ‘Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration’ (Kluwer/Springer),that resulted in 25 volumes of inestimable value to the photosynthesis community.
In recent years, Govindjee has followed his passion for a unique project on the ‘History of Photosynthesis Research’ for the benefit of present and future students of Plant Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics. For almost 20 years, he has documented the progress of research in photosynthesis, through interviews, obituaries, tributes, personal perspectives, and news of scientists around the World. Much of this has been presented through his innovative ‘Historical Corner’ section in the journal ‘Photosynthesis Research’. These publications, accompanied by photographs of key people and places, are unique contributions to the history of Science, and Photosynthesis, in particular.
In summary, Govindjee has made unique and important contributions to research and science education, through his love and dedication for the field of photosynthesis. He is a passionate scientist whose dedication to service and education, as well as research, has enriched the entire community of inquisitive beings and everyone who has come into contact with him.
Govindjee, was honored during a ceremony on June 16, 2007, at the RFFBR Foundation headquarters in Champaign, Illinois. Over 60 guests including six Board Members (Christoph Benning, Hans Bohnert, Ken Hoober, Archie Portis, C. A. Rebeiz, and Carole Rebeiz) attended the ceremony which included a buffet style dinner, testimonials by C. A. Rebeiz (RFFBR), Robert Blankenship (Washington University, St. Louis), Fred Delcomyn and Braj Kachru (both of the University of Illinois), a recognition plaque and a monetary award to Govindjee.
Govindjee was recognized for his devoted and distinguished carrier centered on the promotion of photosynthesis research at the national and international levels, and his continued efforts after retirement, as an editor par excellence of chloroplast and photosynthesis books. Govindjee’s plaque reads:
For his scientific achievements, original research in the field of Photosynthesis, promotion of Photosynthesis Research in Books and at International Conferences and his continuing efforts to document the History of Photosynthetic Research as an Editor par excellence.
Several guests who could not attend the ceremony for Govindjee sent testimonials. These were read by C. A. Rebeiz.
Colin Wraight, a distinguished biochemist and biophysicist, currently Head of Biochemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), wrote:
Apart from his own substantial research legacy, his contributions to the global community of photosynthesis research is remarkable, possibly even eclipsing that of his old mentor, Eugene Rabinowitch!
Paul Castelfranco, a well known chlorophyll biochemist from the University of California at Davis, wrote:
Govindjee, you are young in spirit and you have been so longer than anyone else. Congratulations.
Morton Weir, University of Illinois Chancellor Emeritus, wrote:
Govindjee, I want to congratulate you in advance, even if I will not be able to do so personally on June 16. Your work over these many years has set a standard that few can match. Award programs are judged by the quality of those selected. It is very important that the person honored be, without question, worthy of the award. This is clearly true in your case.
Carl Woese, a well known molecular biologist, and the recipient of the 2003 Crawford Prize, wrote:
Govindjee, there has always been fullness and a humanity to your person and your science that is rare; and it feels entirely just that you should be so honored.
John C. Munday Jr, a 1968 PhD , in Biophysics, under Govindjee wrote:
[Govindjee,] You continue to be an inspiration by your ongoing activity in pursuit of scientific truth. May you enjoy many more years of fruitful endeavor. I hope there will be additional opportunities to offer congratulations to you for being a scientist of high calling, a professor, a mentor, and a good friend. I have often wished to be able to come back to the laboratory to do some additional experiments and to enjoy your fellowship.
Finally, one of Govindjee’s family members, namely sister-in-law of Govindjee’s wife (Rajni), Subhashini Chandra, wrote:
Govindjee, It is a great honor for you to get this award in recognition of your dication to science and research. Heartfelt congratulations to you. The Rebeiz Foundation might give this award now, but I have always honored you as a man dedicated to science only. Congratulations.
C. A. Rebeiz remarked at the ceremony: Of course behind every man there is a woman and in this case it is Govindjee’s wife, Rajni Govindjee.
Then the platform was turned over to several speakers who attended the ceremony, namely: Robert Blankenship (Professor of Chemistry and Biology, Washington University, St. Louis), a leading authority on photosynthesis research, Fred Delcomyn, Director of the School of Integrative Biology, at the UIUC and Braj Kachru, Director Emeritus of the Center for Advanced Study at UIUC.
Robert Blankenship stated:
In the 1940s and 1950s, Govindjee’s former mentor Eugene Rabinowitch summarized the entire field of photosynthesis. No person could do that alone now, it is just too vast a subject. However, Govindjee has succeeded in accomplishing the same result by editing the extremely successful Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series, where he has selected editors on particular aspects of the field and they have in turn selected experts in particular areas. The series is a remarkably detailed and up to date summary of photosynthesis and would not have happened without the leadership and direct personal involvement of Govindjee. It will truly be his most enduring legacy and will be used for decades to come.
Fred Delcomyn, stated: Govindjee, you deserve this award. You have had a distinguished carrier at the UIUC for a long time, and whereas most people slow down after retirement, there was no sign of you doing that.
Braj, Kachru stated: Our honoree inherited the questioning and challenging traits from his family. His elder brother—Gopalji—rightly observes that “Govindjee was an inquisitive child, wanting to know the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of everything he saw.” The quality of the questioning mind from his childhood has deservedly resulted in The Rebeiz Foundation Award. Govindjee and Rajni’s grace, elegance, contagious optimism and commitment to social concerns and causes have made them both much respected members of our community. All of that, as all of us know, is in addition to their dedication to science and scientific research.
Finally, the Rebeiz Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, which consisted of a Recognition Plaque and a monetary award were handed C. A. Rebeiz to Govindjee. See the photographs below for some of those who were present at the ceremony.
This was followed by Govindjee’s acknowledgment of various associates, spanning 50 years, with whom he interacted throughout the years. Those present at the ceremony included: Hans Bohnert; Robert Clegg; Tony Crofts; Rajni Govindjee; Don Ort; Archie Portis; Tino Rebeiz, and Manfredo Seufferheld, among others
Scenes from the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for Govindjee, held on June 16, 2007, at the Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research headquarters.
First row: (Left) Standing: Govindjee, receiving the Award plaque, Tino Rebeiz (President of the Foundation, presenting the Award), and Rajni Govindjee. Sitting in the foreground: Jaya Kumar, and Amita Sinha (University of Illinois), ready to clap. (Right) Standing: Archie Portis (Board Member), Govindjee, and Robert Blankenship (Professor of Chemistry and Biology, Washington University, St. Louis) talking about the scientific achievements of Govindjee. Sitting in the foreground: Amita Sinha.
Second row (Left) Braj B. Kachru (Director Emeritus of the Center of Advanced Studies, University of Illinois, talking about the personal achievements of Govindjee and Rajni Govindjee)and C. A. Rebeiz. (Middle), Fred Delcomyn (Director of the School of Integrative Biology, University of Illinois), presenting the University’s perspective on Govindjee. (Right) Left to right: Govindjee, Himadri Pakrasi, Maitryee Bhattacharya-Pakrasi, Christine Yerkes and Anthony Crofts.
Third Row (Left) Liz Blankenship, Govindjee, Naomi Jakobsson (State Representative), Eric Jakobsson, Carole Rebeiz (Board Director), Rajni Govindjee and Vidya Tripathy. (Right) P.R. Balgopal, May Berenbaum (standing), Sara Ort (standing), Kenneth Hoober (Board Director), Manfredo Seufferheld (standing) and Robert Clegg.
Fourth row, (Left) Clockwise: Susanne Hoffman-Benning, Donald Ort, Diane Portis, Andrew Leaky, Lisa Ainsworth, Govindjee, Archie Portis (Board Director ) and Christoph Benning (Board Director). (Right) Left to right: John Katzellenbogen, Harris Lewin, Rosane Oliveira, Benita Katzellenbogen, Govindjee and Hans Bohnert (Board Director).
Photographs are courtesy of Rajni Govindjee and John Katzellenbogen; the photo plate was made by Hyungshim Yoo.
We thank the other five Board Directors of the Foundation namely, Thomas Bach, Henry Daniell, Natalia Dudareva, Baishnab C. Tripathy and Julian Whitelegge for their work that resulted in the LTAAward to Govindjee.