- Author: Ann Filmer
After earning a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Labavitch began his faculty position in the Department of Pomology (now part of the Department of Plant Sciences) at UC Davis in 1976, working on cell walls and postharvest biology. He retired in 2014 as a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. His main subject areas were cell wall metabolism in relationship to aspects of fruit development and ripening, plant-pathogen interactions and biofuel production.
His lab group introduced the use of specific polysaccharide structural information to describe and understand changes in plant cell walls that occur as fruits ripen and/or are infected by pathogens. These studies led to the description of plant proteins that inhibit pathogen and insect cell wall-digesting enzymes and, thus, contribute to plant resistance to these crop "enemies."
In 2015, Labavitch received the Academic Senate's “Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching.” Over the course of his career, he developed and taught, with colleagues, several undergraduate and graduate courses, and the core courses of the Plant Biology, and the Horticulture and Agronomy graduate groups.
John Labavitch is survived by his wife, Frances Tennant, who earned a Ph.D. in genetics at UC Davis. Information is pending about a memorial service. In his retirement, Labavitch continued to work, traveled with his wife, and regularly challenged his dog to see who could walk farther. He will be missed by his many friends, colleagues and former students.
Read more about Labavitch at https://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/news/john-labavitch-plant-sciences-professor-emeritus-uc-davis-passes-away.