Remembering Joachim Messing

Dear Members of the Rutgers–New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Communities,

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Dr. Joachim Messing, Director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology.

Dr. Messing joined Rutgers in 1985, where he focused on his search to end hunger, protect the environment, and advance medicine through genomics and biotechnology. He quickly became renowned for his groundbreaking research. Through his work, Dr. Messing became the most frequently cited scientist in the 1980s, a significant achievement before the age of 45. 

Among his many personal and professional accomplishments, Dr. Messing won the 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture and the 2014 Promega Biotechnology Award and was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology. Dr. Messing was also a member of both the U.S. and German National Academies of Sciences.

His intellectual brilliance was matched by his generous spirit as a colleague, professor, and friend. This characteristic was especially evident in his work. After working with colleagues to develop the “shotgun DNA sequencing” method for studying the genetic makeup of humans and plants, Dr. Messing did not seek to patent or profit financially from his discovery but instead shared the tools he invented with other scientists as an investment in future research for medicine and agriculture. This generosity enabled his peers to eventually decipher the genetic blueprint of living cells.

An esteemed colleague, Dr. Messing was an inspiration to many of his peers and students. While serving as a mentor and consistently encouraging his team to strive to do the impossible, he also took time to celebrate milestones big and small. Birthday celebrations were his favorite, with his team fondly noting Dr. Messing would often sing with the most enthusiasm.

As we remember Dr. Messing, our thoughts are with the Rutgers community and with his family. A memorial service at Rutgers will be arranged at a later date.



Robert Barchi
President, Rutgers University

Christopher Molloy
Chancellor, Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Brian L. Strom
Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences