Linda Bisson reacts to Wine Flavor 101 that honored her career

Dr. Bisson
Dr. Linda Bisson at the event that honored her career
Dr. Linda Bisson

I want to take this opportunity to thank the organizers (Kay and Anita) of "Wine Flavor 101: Managing Wine Quality – Problematic Fermentation", the program held on February 15 to celebrate my career. I also want to thank all the speakers for their kind words, particularly David Block and Charlie Edwards, on the impact I have had on their careers and the industry. It's very humbling to know that these things can mean so much to others.

I also want to express my appreciation to my former students who presented their work and its impact and so expertly showcased the path from initial question, to hypothesis generation and testing, to confirmation of findings to application of knowledge. When I started, we knew very little about the fundamental process of sugar uptake in Saccharomyces and now we know they have a large family of intricately coordinated and regulated transport proteins and that disruption of those processes is directly correlated with slow and arrested fermentation.  Jim Brown and Vidhya Ramakrishnan gave great presentations on how we went from the basic biology and kinetics of uptake to diagnosis of causes of arrested fermentation, and more importantly, how to better manage fermentations to assure successful outcomes.

 Angela Linderholm then talked about our second major accomplishment, which was the search for naturally occurring genes associated with low to no hydrogen sulfide production, the identification of a good candidate gene and the assessment and testing of the utility of that discovery for the creation of commercial strains that have a greatly reduced ability to release H2S. John Husnik then just dazzled us with the ways this discovery has been commercialized and the number of industries impacted, including the impact on the coffee industry regarding sulfide issues during bean fermentations. It is very rewarding to see research findings having an impact well beyond your wildest imagination.

The most fun of the day was the presentation of the work on Brettanomyces and the creation of the Brett/Lactic wheel. Lucy Joseph and I had fun doing this work even though it was a lot of work with a lot of smelling off-characters followed by chemical quantitation of the compounds responsible. I loved crashing the panel discussion and the wonderful ensuing discussion with the audience – it is this type of interaction that I will miss the most in retirement.

Gordon Walker discussed his work with our final push to really understand difficult to ferment juices and the collaboration with my late dear colleague Susan Lindquist on the role of prions as mediators of yeast metabolic activity. Our collaborative work with the [GAR+] prion was one of the highlights of my research career.  Ben Montpetit brings a wonderful new dimension to the Department’s research program and I look forward to the many important discoveries coming from his laboratory.

Lastly, I was grateful for the opportunity to present “what’s next” for me and my continuing work with and focus on our ADVANCE program with the goal of creating a truly diverse, inclusive community: one that celebrates our differences as much as our similarities.

Finally, I am humbled as well by the multitude of warm wishes I have received from the industry (as well as offers of internship positions!). I am still in awe of the wines that were generously donated for the reception. Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the world’s greatest industry.