Remembering Jane Silverthorne (1953–2022)

Jane Silverthorne is best known for her leadership on plant genomics projects at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as she joined the NSF as the plant genome program manager one year after the launch of the US plant genome program. She was a constant advocate for early career scientists and she made a significant impact on the career development of many young academics.

Jane was the fifth person to join in the dinner that would become the Women in Genomics network. For many years, she continued to participate in the long tradition of gathering women in genomics for networking and friendship during the Plant and Animal Genome Conference.

Jane received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, and a Ph.D. from the University of Warwick. She subsequently conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles. She served as a faculty member at UC Santa Cruz from 1987 to 2004, rising to the rank of full professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Her research program focused on the role of phytochromes, an important class of photoreceptors that control plant growth and development.

Jane Silverthorne was a visionary for plant genomics and much valued mentor and colleague to many. I miss talking with her about science, art, and interior decorating and joining her on her annual visit to the Tidal Basin during peak bloom. She was above all else my friend and confidant and I truly miss her. May she rest in peace.

Diane Okamuro

In 1999, Jane joined the NSF as a Program Director for the Plant Genome Research Program and rose to become in 2014 the deputy assistant director for the Biological Sciences Directorate. After retiring from NSF in 2017, Jane served as a senior scientific advisor for the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation and on the Board of Directors at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. In recognition of her contributions to science, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012 and was the 2020 recipient of the American Society of Plant Biologists Leadership in Science Public Service Award.

Jane shared her passion for science and good government with people around the world, and she appreciated and celebrated art, music, and culture in every form.