Dr. Sherret Chase: Award for Sustained Excellence

April 9, 2020

On March 6 a former Iowa State professor was recognized for his ground-breaking work in plant breeding. Dr. Sherret Chase was presented the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Award for Sustained Excellence for sustaining a high level of excellence throughout the course of his distinguished career beginning with the development of the ‘monoploid method’ which contributed to a transformation in plant breeding, accelerating the speed of selection for desirable traits resulting in stronger strains of maize. Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Science Endowed Dean Daniel J. Robison presented the award at the Raymond F. Baker Plant Breeding Symposium held at the Iowa State Alumni Center.

Dr. Chase’s work gave way to double haploid technology which allows creation of inbred lines that carry only a single, maternal genome. Through several steps, doubled haploids can be used to accelerate development of pure genetic lines for research and plant breeding. 

The idea of double haploid was ignited in 1946 when Dr. Chase was a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell majoring in plant cytology, genetics and philosophy. He arrived at Iowa State in 1947 as professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and put his ideas to the test. 

“Once at Ames, I tested these ideas successfully. I received excellent support in my move here to Iowa State,” said Dr. Chase in a written statement read by his daughter Helen Chase at the award presentation. “Most of my “firsts” in developing the Doubled Haploid Method were accomplished here at Iowa State.” 

The list of groundbreaking work Dr. Chase accomplished during his career include:  

  • First haploid to doubled haploid 

  • Confirmed different female rates of parthogenesis 

  • Recognition male influence on parthogenesis 

  • Haploids in quantity 

  • Observation of high rates of genome doubling 

  • Double haploids in quantity 

  • Use of embryo markers for seed haploid selection 

  • First double haploid in successful commercial hybrid 

  • First second-generation double haploid in commercial hybrid 

  • Cloning of haploids 

  • Cytoplasmic transfer through androgenesis 

  • Fixation of high performing inbreds as double haploid 

The Chase Family

"What I find remarkable is, that Dr. Chase conducted visionary research, which he knew would change how breeding is done," said Dr. Thomas Lubberstedt, professor in the Department of Agronomy focused on plant breeding. "He laid out a path which helped generations of researchers to tweak the doubled haploid methodology, so that after a couple of decades it became routine for major crops like maize, wheat, barley and canola."

After his tenure at Iowa State, Dr. Chase went on to serve as a research geneticist and later the Director of Seed Operations for DeKalb. In 1966 Dr Chase became a Bullard, Cabot Fellow and honorary research associate at Harvard. Currently Dr. Chase is professor emeritus at State University of New York at Oswego in the Department of Biology where he’s been since 1968. 

Dr. Chase attended the awards presentation at the R.F. Baker Plant Breeding Symposium with several family including his daughters, a son-in-law, grandchildren and a great-grandson.

“Thank you very much to Dean Robison and to Professor Lubberstedt for this award,” Dr. Chase wrote in his statement. “Receiving this from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University means a great deal to me.  I have roots here - both parthenogenetic (my haploids) and heterozygous (my family). Thank you very much.”