Ralph S. Quatrano

Ralph S. Quatrano

Ralph S. Quatrano, PhD, the Spencer T. Olin Professor Emeritus of Biology in Arts & Sciences and dean emeritus of Washington University, is internationally known for his plant science work. Closer to home, he is also known for his collaborative and strategic leadership skills, which he has applied in numerous administrative positions at the university. 

Since he arrived at Washington University in 1998, Dr. Quatrano has served as chairman of the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences (1998–2008); director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences (2005–07); dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences (2008–09); and dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science (2010–15), now the McKelvey School of Engineering. 

As dean of the engineering school, he catalyzed and promoted the convergence of the emerging fields of biology/biomedical science and engineering. He also laid out the school’s ambitious strategic plan, led the hiring of one-third of the faculty at the time, including two new department chairs, and was a passionate proponent of interdisciplinary programs while overseeing the construction of two new engineering buildings.

Before coming to Washington University, Dr. Quatrano had served on the faculties at Oregon State University (OSU) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At all three universities, he was active in teaching and research at the undergraduate and graduate levels and graduated 20 PhDs and directed 40 postdoctoral fellows/scientists, many of whom now hold academic positions at major universities.

While he was teaching at OSU, he took a leave of absence from 1986 to 1989 to experience corporate research as a research manager in molecular biology in the Central Research and Development group at the DuPont Company, in Wilmington, Delaware, where he directed a group of more than 30 scientists. He has used this experience to serve on several boards and as a consultant for start-ups, major agricultural companies and research institutions. He also directed one of the first academic/industry programs for basic research between the Monsanto Company and Washington University (1998–2008).  

He was a co-founder of MOgene, LC, a genomic service company for the last 12 years, and now serves as a senior partner in Exeteur Group, LLC, a newly formed venture development company in St. Louis that partners with research institutions, entrepreneurs and existing companies to properly structure and manage start-up companies.

Dr. Quatrano is internationally known for his plant science research and widely recognized for his significant and continued contributions to the field of plant science for more than 40 years. He was one of the earliest investigators to apply the tools of molecular biology, and most recently genomics and systems biology, to the study of drought tolerance in plants. 

For this research, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. An inaugural fellow and former president of the American Society of Plant Biologists, Dr. Quatrano also was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Biological Sciences Directorate for the National Science Foundation and on the Scientific Advisory
Board of the Rockefeller Foundation International Program on Rice Biotechnology.

Dr. Quatrano is an advisory board trustee and fellow of the Academy of Science of St. Louis, which honored him with its Science Leadership Award in 2015. 

For five years, he was editor-in-chief of The Plant Cell, the premier journal of plant biology, and he also served on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science for eight years.

The Ralph S. Quatrano Prize was established at Washington University in 2016 in his honor and is awarded annually to the student whose biology thesis shows the greatest evidence of creativity in design, research methodology or broader scientific implications. Also in 2016, Dr. Quatrano received the Dean’s Award from the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Dr. Quatrano earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science with honors from Colgate University; a master’s degree in plant science from Ohio University; and his doctorate in biology
from Yale University.

He and his wife, Lee Anne, have lived in St. Louis for more than 20 years. In retirement as a former learning disability specialist, Lee Anne now serves on the board of the Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund for supporting local nonprofits. For pleasure, they are traveling nationally and internationally, as well as visiting family, especially their five children and 11 grandchildren, three of whom received undergraduate degrees at Washington University.