Zachary Lippman has four fishing poles in his office, along with a metal detector his wife gave him for his birthday and some eighteenth-century coins from back when Cold Spring Harbor, New York used to be a whaling port.
“I’m big into fishing,” he says. That comes as no surprise. He’s an explorer, a collector, a seeker of things hidden. He casts at the old whaling harbor, some 30 feet away from his lab. There, he has devoted the last nine years to understanding how plants develop. The goal: growing more food for a hungry world.
Lippman’s interest in plants began when he was 13 years old, at a job on a 15-acre vegetable farm on Connecticut’s coast, where he worked for five years. “For me, the real fascination was that you take seeds – these little, dry nothings – and put them in the ground, give them a little bit of care, and in three or four months, you have all this free food,” says Lippman. “To me that was ‘wow.’ That’s amazing.”