Duke Named Outstanding Senior Scientist by
USDA Research Agency By
February 7, 2001
OXFORD, Miss., Feb. 7--Plant physiologist Stephen O. Duke
has been named an Outstanding Senior Research Scientist of 2000" by the
Agricultural Research Service, chief
scientific research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Duke is research leader of the
Natural Products Utilization
Research Unit operated by ARS at the University of Mississippi-Oxford.
"Dr. Duke is being honored for his outstanding performance and
leadership in fundamental plant physiology studies in support of weed science
and natural products research," said ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn. "His
research has had significant impact in several fields of plant research.
Horn will present plaques to Duke and 15 other ARS scientists at
a 1 p.m. ceremony Feb. 7 at the agency's Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural
Research Center. Honorees will also receive cash awards and additional
research funding. Duke is the outstanding senior scientist of the year for ARS'
Mid South Area, which includes
laboratories in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Dukes most significant accomplishments have focused on
understanding how phytotoxins work. Phytotoxins are toxins produced naturally
by plants and microbes that act as natural herbicides. Few scientists active in
this research area have discovered even one new molecular site of action of a
phytotoxin. Duke has discovered six such sites and provided crucial new
information on how these and many other phytotoxins function.
This information has been important to those scientists
interested in the natural resistance of crops to herbicides and phytotoxins,
crop/pathogen interactions and biosynthetic pathways in plants.
By applying his broad knowledge of plant pathology and taking
novel research approaches, Duke has used a group of methods--or developed new
ones--to elucidate the mode of action of phytotoxins.
For example, his studies of tentoxins mechanism of action
required him to develop a wide variety of approaches, including various new
in vivo spectrophotometic techniques. His versatility has allowed him to
successfully explain the mode of action of phytotoxins affecting a broad range
of plant biochemical processes including several important plant functions,
like synthesis of amino acids, and others that are important for chloroplast
Besides his innovative research, Duke has been an outstanding
leader in mentoring doctoral, post-doctoral and high school students in his
research unit. These young scientists have assisted in searching the plant and
microbial kingdoms for pest- fighters that work in harmony with the
environment. While Duke served as director of ARS
Science Laboratory, Stoneville, Miss., four of that labs nine
scientists won either the agencys Mid South Scientist of the
Year or Early Career Scientist of the Year awards. Since the
fall of 1996, he has planned, organized and staffed the Oxford lab.
During his 25-year career with ARS, Duke wrote or co-authored
more than 230 publications, including articles in peer-reviewed journals and
book chapters. He has been an invited speaker at many international meetings
and has received numerous research grants and awards, as well as several USDA
certificates of merit.
He is a member of several professional societies--past president
of the Weed Science Society of
America, an elected fellow of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science and current president of the
Born in Battle Creek, Mich., Duke spent his childhood in
Arkadelphia, Ark. He received his B.S. in biology at
Henderson State University at Arkadelphia,
his M.S. in botany at the University of
Arkansas, and Ph.D. in plant physiology from Duke University.
Scientific contact: Stephen O. Duke, USDA-ARS
Natural Products Utilization
Research Unit, National
Center for the Development of Natural Products, Room 1012,
University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
38677; phone (662) 232- 1036, fax (662) 232-7062,