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USDA's Agricultural Research Service Announces Scientist of the Year and Other Awards

By Dennis O'Brien
June 15, 2011

Sarah Hake
Sarah Hake. Click the image for 300 dpi.

Molecular geneticist Sarah Hake has been named "Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of 2010" by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for her scientific leadership, research and seminal discoveries in plant biology that have had a major impact on plant developmental genetics. ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Hake is director of the ARS Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, Calif. She and other ARS researchers and support staff are being honored today at the agency's awards ceremony.

"Dr. Hake's research on plant genetic mechanisms is focused on one of the most important areas of agricultural research today, and her work has placed her among the top scientists in her field," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS administrator. "Her talent, skills and achievements have broadened our understanding of basic plant biology and helped address the challenges associated with producing enough food in a world where the climate is changing and populations are on the rise."

Hake's findings have shed light on how plants develop and have led to advances in areas ranging from agricultural production to evolution. She was the first scientist to clone a developmental gene by using a transposable element or "jumping gene" as a starting point. The gene identified was a type previously thought to exist only in animals, and functions as a master regulator of multiple pathways.

Hake's isolation of other genes has led to a body of knowledge on leaf and flower development in maize currently at the forefront of plant biology studies. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the winner in 2008 of the Hales Award, the most prestigious award given by the 5,000-member American Society of Plant Biologists. (More about Hake's research)

Joan LunneyARS also will recognize the following Area Senior Research Scientists today:

Joan K. Lunney, ARS Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., for significant research contributions and international leadership in determining protective immune mechanisms and genetic resistance for infectious pathogens important to the U.S. swine industry. (More)

Andy ColeN. Andy Cole, ARS Renewable Energy and Manure Management Research Unit, Bushland, Texas, for outstanding research in beef cattle nutrition and in management of environmental impacts of beef cattle feeding operations. (More)

Robert GrayboschRobert A. Graybosch, ARS Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit, Lincoln, Neb., for sustained research innovation and productivity leading to wheat cultivars with improved yield, quality, and disease resistance. (More)

Karamat SistaniKaramat R. Sistani, ARS Animal Waste Management Research Unit, Bowling Green, Ky., for outstanding research and team leadership in using animal wastes to increase crop yields, while protecting water and air quality and controlling pathogens. (More)

Roger WiseRoger P. Wise, ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit, Ames, Iowa, for distinguished research and leadership in genomics of disease interactions in cereal crops. (More)

James GiovannoniJames Giovannoni, ARS Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit, Ithaca, N.Y. for international leadership on tomato genomics research, including pioneering discoveries in fruit ripening, as well as leadership of tomato genome sequencing efforts. (More)

Thomas Carter, Jr.Thomas E. Carter, Jr., ARS Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research Unit, Raleigh, N.C., for pioneering research on genetic diversity in soybean breeding and the development of the first high-yielding, drought-tolerant soybean germplasm. (More)

Jonathan LundgrenARS also is recognizing outstanding "early career scientists" who have been with the agency for seven years or less. The top prize, the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist Award, will be presented to Jonathan G. Lundgren of ARS' North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Brookings, S.D. He was recognized for innovative research on multi-trophic interactions within agricultural systems, emphasizing how generalist predators are affected by farm management, and how biodiversity improves pest management. (More)

Amy Vincent Other "Area Early Career Research Scientist Award" winners for 2010 are:

Amy L. Vincent, ARS Virus and Prion Diseases Research Unit, Ames, Iowa, for swine influenza virus pathogenesis, transmission and vaccine research supporting the U.S. swine industry. (More)

Brandon BestelmeyerBrandon T. Bestelmeyer, ARS Range Management Research Unit, Las Cruces, N.M., for research resulting in ecologically based technologies used in management of millions of acres of rangelands in the United States and around the world. (More)

Jeffry FabrickJeffrey A. Fabrick, ARS Pest Management and Biological Control Research Unit, Maricopa, Ariz., for innovative application of insect biochemistry and molecular biology in understanding and sustaining transgenic crop technology and integrated pest management.

Russell NutiRussell C. Nuti, ARS National Peanut Research Laboratory, Dawson, Ga., for conceiving and conducting research and transferring it to applicable stakeholders in the peanut industry. (More)

Helen NgoHelen L. Ngo, ARS Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products Research Unit, Wyndmoor, Pa., for research in the development of novel catalysts and catalytic processes for the conversion of fats and oils into biobased products and biofuels.

Ryan ViatorRyan P. Viator, ARS Sugarcane Research Unit, Houma, La., for identifying, conducting, and transferring research that meets current and future needs of the sugarcane industry.

George LiuGeorge E. Liu, ARS Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., for research on cattle genome copy number variations underlying economically important health and production traits.

Knipling also announced the agency's selections for the 2010 ARS Technology Transfer Awards for outstanding work by individuals or groups in transferring technology to the marketplace. Two nominations have been selected for top honors and six others have been cited for superior efforts.

Top honors for outstanding efforts will be presented to Chris M. Maragos, ARS Bacterial Foodborne Pathogens and Mycology Research Unit, Peoria, Ill., for the development of antibodies essential to the manufacture of improved toxin detection assays, and also to the ARS Pacific West Area Potato Breeding Program for development and transfer of new potato varieties in the Pacific Northwest. Members of that team include Charles R. Brown, Roy Navarre and James Crosslin, all of the ARS Vegetable and Forage Crops Research Unit, Prosser, Wash.; and Richard Novy and Jonathan Whitworth, both from the ARS Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit, Aberdeen, Idaho.

Also being honored for superior technology transfer achievements are:

Xiaoliang Cui, ARS Cotton Structure and Quality Research Unit, New Orleans, La. for outstanding efforts in supporting the transfer of the USDA-AMS process for cotton classification, which helped facilitate the sale of U.S. cotton to China.

C. Corley Holbrook, ARS Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit, Tifton, Ga., for development and transfer of Tifguard, the first high-yielding peanut cultivar with resistance to both the peanut root-knot nematode and tomato spotted wilt virus.

The H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Veterinary Team for rapid response to H1N1 pandemic influenza by timely development and transfer of diagnostic tests for veterinary specimens. The team includes David Suarez and Erica Spackman, ARS Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, Athens, Ga.; and Beverly Schmitt, Sabrina Swenson, Mary Lea Killian, Janice Pedersen, Leo Koster and Melinda Jenkins-Moore, all of the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Ames, Iowa.

The Aerial Application Technology Team at the ARS Areawide Pest Management Research Unit, College Station, Texas, for the transfer of spray application technology to the Florida citrus industry for enhanced control of citrus greening disease. The team includes W. Clint Hoffmann, Bradley K. Fritz, Daniel E. Martin, and Christopher T. Parker.

The ARS Predictive Microbiology for Food Safety Team at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), Wyndmoor, Pa., for developing and expanding the USDA Pathogen Modeling Program, Predictive Microbiology Information Portal (PMIP) to enhance the safety of the nation's food supplies. The team includes Vijay Juneja, Cheng-An Hwang, Lihan Huang, Tom Oscar and Shiowshuh Sheen. (More about the research)

The Winter Barley team, also based at the ERRC, for developing and transferring technology that promotes energy independence and the rural economy by providing assistance to the Mid Atlantic winter barley ethanol industry. The team includes Kevin Hicks, John Nghiem, Andy McAloon, Winnie Yee, Frank Taylor, David Johnston, Edna Ramirez (retired), Rolando Flores, Robert Moreau, Mike Kurantz, Jhanel Wilson, Gerard Senske, all of ERRC; and industry partners Jay Shetty, Gerhard Janda-Konieczny and Mian Li, all of Genencor International; Bob Randle, formerly of Genencor International; Pat Simms, Eric Lee, Hank Bisner, Craig Shealy, John Warren and Bill Scruggs, all of Osage Bio Energy; Wynse Brooks, Carl Griffey, Wade Thomason and Mark Vaughn, all from Virginia Tech; Bruce Beahm, Virginia Crop Improvement Association, and Dan Brann, Brann Farms.

Richard BeemanRichard Beeman of the ARS Stored Product Insect Research Unit, Manhattan, Kan., is the recipient of the agency's T.W. Edminster Award for proposed research to engineer a new red flour beetle cell line for analysis of gene expression and gene silencing. The work could lead to practical methods for controlling insect pests. The T.W. Edminster Award is given annually to the researcher who submits the highest rated research proposal in the ARS Postdoctoral Research Associate Program. (More about the research)

Administrator's Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Awards are being presented to Kim E. Hummer, ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository, Corvallis, Ore., for excellence in student and community outreach, and to Savithiry Natarajan, ARS Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., for extraordinary efforts in motivating K-12 minority students to pursue careers in science. The awards recognize employees for promoting equal employment opportunity and civil rights and fostering an awareness of and commitment to workforce diversity.

Andrew MeerdoThe 2010 Excellence in Information Award is being presented to Andrew Meerdo for developing unique informational and instructional videos and a web site for the ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory in Logan, Utah.

The Office Professional of the Year Award is being given to Beth A. Holt for contributions that enhanced scientific productivity at the ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas and in the Southern Plains Area.

The following ARS employees also are being honored for exemplary service in Administration and Financial Management (AFM):

Gold Award for Excellence: James W. Tyler, retired, formerly administrative officer of the Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La.;

Silver Award for Excellence: Sandy Morgan, AFM, Beltsville, Md.;

Bronze Awards for Excellence: Debra Vandergrift, AFM, Washington, D.C. and the Research Position Evaluation Staff (RPES), Beltsville, Md. RPES staff members include Merle Cole, Wendy Hatcher, Pat Humphrey and Dana Lamberti.