Dennis' Open Road
Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology
Don't just be a test tube scientist—if you have the opportunity, do something to help people.
- After earning his bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Hawaii, he originally just wanted to find a job.
- He was hired as a technician on Kauaʻi, and his boss showed him a virus he suspected was developing on the papaya plants.
- With no preparation—aside from one plant pathology class he’d taken in college—he was tasked with identifying the virus.
- He checked out books on plant pathology and spent nine months studying the virus; during that time, he got hooked.
- He decided curing this virus would become his life’s work; he went back to school to earn his Ph.D. in plant pathology.
- As he further researched the virus, it started rapidly spreading and threatening the livelihood of Hawaii’s papaya farmers.
- Eventually, he genetically engineered the "Rainbow" papaya to be resistant to this devastating papaya ringspot virus.
- Rainbow papayas now make up over 75 percent of Hawaii's papayas; he’s largely credited with saving the industry in the state.