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Two Scientists Inducted Into ARS Hall of Fame

By Luis Pons
September 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17--Advances in superabsorbent materials and in diagnosing and controlling bovine leukemia have earned two Agricultural Research Service scientists places in the agency's Science Hall of Fame. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Edward B. Bagley and Janice M. Miller will receive plaques citing their achievements during a ceremony tonight at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington.

"These scientists have made enormous contributions to agricultural research during their careers and have certainly earned their places in the Hall of Fame," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS acting administrator.

Since 1986, the ARS Hall of Fame program has recognized agency researchers for outstanding career achievements in agricultural science. Those inducted are nominated by their peers for making major contributions to agricultural research. The scientists must be retired, or eligible to retire, to receive the award.

Bagley, who joined ARS in 1971 when he was already well known in the international polymer science and engineering community, was involved in three landmark ARS projects.

He contributed greatly to the development of a starch-based superabsorbent material capable of holding many times its weight in water to form a gel. Regarded as ARS' most commercially successful technology, "Super Slurper" has generated many patents and revolutionized entire industries, such as those producing disposable diapers and surgical dressings. It also led to legislation facilitating effective working relationships between private industry and government research.

Bagley directed a major effort to scale up a "trickle ammonia process" for salvaging aflatoxin-contaminated corn using equipment readily available for on-farm operation. The grain-drying process saves energy, minimizes quality deterioration and can operate over a wide range of weather conditions.

In addition, Bagley used his background in rheology--the study of the movement of material under different conditions--to broaden understanding about factors that control the flow of various food products during processing. His methods emphasize the need for reliable contact during processing between food products and measuring devices, thus providing true flow parameters for samples.

Bagley, who retired in 1995 from ARS' National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., has won several other awards. He was named Inventor of the Year for 1976 by the Association for the Advancement of Invention and Innovation, and ARS Scientist of the Year for 1987.

Miller, who joined ARS in 1972, is being recognized for pioneering research in understanding, diagnosing and controlling bovine leukemia, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and other chronic infectious or zoonotic diseases of ruminant animals.

The knowledge and technology her research provided for the diagnosis and control of bovine leukemia virus infection is internationally recognized as the scientific basis for control and eradication of the disease and is used in regulating international trade. That work established ARS as the nation's lead institution in bovine leukemia research.

Miller discovered the virus that causes bovine leukemia, as well as practical assays for preclinical diagnosis of the disease. Her tests are used both to ensure that only leukemia-virus-free cattle are exported by the United States and to aid in eradication programs in several countries.

Miller also developed diagnostic tests for several diseases that pose major threats to U.S. livestock production and export markets. Among these are tests for bovine immunodeficiency disease, bovine tuberculosis, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, scrapie and chronic wasting disease of deer and elk. Surveillance and control/eradication programs run by ARS and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are based upon Miller's tests.

Miller, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was named 1977 Woman Veterinarian of the Year by the Women's Veterinary Medical Association, and ARS Distinguished Scientist of the Year for 1989. She works at ARS' National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.

Permanent copies of the plaques presented to the scientists will be on display at the ARS National Visitor Center in Beltsville, Md.