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Agency Scientists Win Top Research Awards

By Jill Lee
February 3, 1999

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3--Autar K. Mattoo, a plant physiologist and biochemist, has been named 1998 “Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year” by the Agricultural Research Service for groundbreaking research in plant metabolism that could help improve the supply and quality of the world's food supply. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific agency.

“Dr. Mattoo’s research established the concept that growth regulators called polyamines control some crucial plant hormones. These hormones govern leaf decay and fruit ripening,” said ARS administrator Floyd P. Horn. “Better understanding of these polyamines can lead to fruits and vegetables that mature at more convenient times for growers."

"Dr. Mattoo also developed methods to extend the shelf life of tomatoes and other crops," Horn added.

Mattoo has served as research leader of the Vegetable Laboratory at ARS' Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center since 1997. Before that, he headed the center's research in plant molecular biology.

Horn will present awards to Mattoo and 15 other agency scientists of the year at a Feb. 10 ceremony in Beltsville. The scientists will receive plaques and cash awards. In addition, as the agency's Distinguished Research Scientist of the Year, Mattoo will receive $40,000 in additional research support.

In addition to Mattoo's other accomplishments, Horn said, "he designed a novel concept of protein regulation by light, using a protein critical to photosynthesis. He also developed an ultra-sensitive test to detect residual herbicides in soil and water. His research opened new areas worldwide in understanding how plant metabolism is regulated.”

Mattoo has published more than 170 research papers during his career.

In 1969, he received his doctorate in microbiology and, in 1965, a master’s degree in biochemistry from Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India, graduating summa cum laude. He earned two bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, botany, zoology and geology from Jammu and Kashmir University in Kashmir, India, in 1962 and 1963.

Mattoo has also served as an adjunct professor of biological sciences with the University of Maryland. In 1995, he received a $100,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organization grant for high technology to improve plant production and reduce hunger.

At the Feb. 10 ceremony, ARS will also honor three “Outstanding Senior Research Scientists for 1998, four "Area Senior Research Scientists of the Year" and eight "early career" scientists of the year.

The three "Outstanding Scientists of the Year” will receive $25,000 in additional research support. They are:

The four "Area Senior Research Scientists of the Year," who will receive $15,000 in additional research support, are:

ARS also is honoring scientists who are just building their careers. An "Early Career" awardee is recognized for making outstanding research contributions despite being with the agency seven years or less and having received the highest degree within the last 10 years.

This year, the top award in this category will go to animal physiologist John R. Dobrinsky as “Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Scientist of 1998.” Dobrinsky works at ARS' Germplasm and Gamete Physiology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. He is being honored for devising the first reliable methods for ultracold storage of swine embryos. This tool will help advance breeding of swine around the world. As the outstanding early career scientist, Dobrinsky will receive $25,000 in additional research support.

Seven “Area Early Career Scientists of 1998" are also being honored. Each will receive $10,000 in additional research support.

Individual news releases on each awardee are available on request to Jill Lee of ARS Information Staff, phone (301) 504-1627, fax (301) 504-1641,

For photos available, contact ARS Photo Unit by phone at 301-504-1609 or e-mail to