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Goodman is a microbial ecologist whose work has focused on vector biology, etiology and microbial diversity. Early in his academic career, he elucidated the cellular basis of the synergistic interactions between unrelated plant viruses in mixed infections. This work subsequently led to the discovery by others of the molecular basis of virus-induced gene silencing. He discovered the viral etiology (the geminiviruses) of a major family of tropical plant diseases (bean golden mosaic, tomato leaf curl, cassava mosaic, maize streak, cotton leaf curl etc.) and was the first to describe their single-stranded circular DNA genomes. After a stint in the biotechnology industry, where he built and led the research program at Calgene, Inc., he returned to academia and turned his attention to questions about the cryptic diversity of microorganisms in the environment that could be studied using culture-independent molecular approaches. His group discovered the clade of crenarcheota in soils, characterized the diversity of soil-inhabiting acidobacteria, and contributed to the emergence of the field of metagenomics. He presently serves as the executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, where he also leads the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.