Sharon Long is a biologist who specializes in applying new genetic engineering techniques to some of the classic problems of agriculture.
Long’s research concerns symbiotic nitrogen fixation, a process critical to agricultural crop rotation and with a potential use in the optimization of green manure as an alternative to energy-intensive nitrogen fertilizers. Her efforts have focused on nodule formation by Rhizobium meliloti and on how the root systems of nodule-forming plants and soil bacteria communicate with each other to make this symbiosis possible. Long’s work has spanned the original cloning of symbiosis genes, which she achieved in 1982, to the identification of natural, chemical signals exchanged between bacteria and plants, and to the use of biochemistry, genetics, and cell biological approaches to understanding symbiosis. She has also successfully used recombinant DNA techniques to probe the relationship between bacteria and legumes.
Long is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University. Her numerous articles have appeared in such journals as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Plant Physiology, and Nature.
Long received a B.S. (1973) from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. (1979) from Yale University.