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Three Scientists Inducted into ARS Hall of Fame

By Marcia Wood
September 12, 2007

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12—Three internationally acclaimed scientists have been selected for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Science Hall of Fame for their decades of discoveries leading to papaya plants that fend off an enemy virus, cotton plants resistant to insect and nematode pests, and human nutrition recommendations to enhance our well-being.

Dennis Gonsalves, Johnie N. Jenkins and Janet C. King will be honored at a dinner and ceremony tonight at ARS' U.S. National Arboretum here.

Dennis Gonsalves

Johnie N. Jenkins

Janet C. King

Dennis Gonsalves

Johnie N. Jenkins

Janet C. King

Jenkins, a research plant geneticist and director of the ARS Crop Science Research Laboratory at Mississippi State, Miss., is an authority on the genetics controlling cotton plants' natural ability to resist attack by boll weevils, cotton bollworms, tobacco budworms, tarnished plant bugs and microscopic worms known as nematodes.

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"Dr. Jenkins' theories and techniques," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling, "have resulted in pest-resistant cotton plants that are being used throughout the world. Dr. Jenkins was among the first scientists to field-test new transgenic cottons resistant to attack by tobacco budworms and cotton bollworms, and has made important discoveries about previously unknown chemical interactions between cotton plants and pest attackers."

Knipling commended Jenkins' mentoring of young scientists, including more than 70 graduate students from a dozen countries who now train others and either serve as ARS scientists or work for some of the world's leading cotton seed companies. Jenkins joined ARS in 1961.

Gonsalves, a plant pathologist and director of the agency's U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii, "is respected by colleagues worldwide for his pioneering research on viruses that attack fruits and vegetables," said Knipling. "Among other accomplishments, Dr. Gonsalves led a team that used techniques of modern biotechnology to equip papaya plants with resistance to papaya ringspot virus. His knowledge and leadership not only helped save the papaya industry in Hawaii—and the livelihood of many small growers—but also opened the door to helping countries where papaya provides the vitamin A needed to prevent childhood blindness and early death."

Formerly a professor of plant pathology at Cornell University's agricultural experiment station at Geneva, N.Y., Gonsalves came to ARS in 2002 after 25 years with the university, during which he received national and international recognition for his cutting-edge research.

King, a nutrition scientist, is being honored for her national and international leadership and achievements in human nutrition, including studies that have led to new guidelines for healthful weight gain during pregnancy, and new recommendations for daily intake of zinc.

"Dr. King has expertly led many national and international nutrition policy committees, such as the advisory board that developed the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans," said Knipling. "Dr. King has also had leadership roles with other prominent national or international committees, institutes and boards, including the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization of the United Nations."

King came to ARS from the University of California-Berkeley in 1995, where she had mentored more than 50 graduate and post-graduate students. During her tenure with ARS, King served as director of the agency's Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif., strengthening the research program there. She left ARS in 2003 to join the Children's Hospital Oakland (Calif.) Research Institute. She holds professorial appointments at the University of California's Berkeley and Davis campuses.

The ARS Science Hall of Fame program, established in 1986, recognizes agency researchers for outstanding career achievements in agricultural sciences. Recipients must be retired or eligible to retire to receive the award.

Plaques honoring the inductees are on permanent display at the ARS National Visitor Center, Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.