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Tara McHugh Distinguished Senior Research Scientist Tara McHugh

USDA's Agricultural Research Service Honors Scientists of the Year

By Jan Suszkiw
April 9, 2019

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2019—For her outstanding contributions to food science and processing, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Tara H. McHugh is the agency's Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year for 2019. McHugh, director of the ARS Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California, is one of many ARS researchers being honored for their scientific achievements.

Prior to becoming WRRC director in 2018, McHugh led the center’s Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit in Albany, located in the agency’s Pacific West Area. There, she oversaw the development of new or improved food-processing methods. In particular, her team focused on creating value-added products from fruits and vegetables deemed too small or flawed for fresh market sales, but are otherwise safe and nutritious to eat. Their efforts, in turn, led to the patenting, licensing and commercialization of several new food products, including 100-percent fruit bars, edible films and purees.

McHugh also oversaw the development of infrared- and ultraviolet light-based processing methods. In walnuts, for example, infrared drying reduced energy costs by 25 percent and cut the total drying time by 35 percent. Her team’s investigation of ultraviolet processing opened the door to increasing the vitamin D content of mushrooms and meeting 100 percent of the daily recommended allowances.

ARS also named four 2019 Area Senior Research Scientists of the Year. They are—

ARS is also honoring scientists who are in the early phases of their careers. The early-career awards recognize the achievements of ARS researchers with the agency for seven years or less.

This year, the top award in this category, the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist of 2019, goes to Amanda J. Ashworth, a soil scientist at ARS’s Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Southeast Area). Ashworth is being recognized for outstanding creativity in devising systems-based approaches to minimizing the threat of non-point source pollution from livestock wastes. Her accomplishments include co-developing Tractor Guidance Analysis, a decision-aid tool to help farmers avoid over applying crop inputs like fertilizer and herbicide, thus decreasing costs and environmental risks.

ARS is honoring four other Area Early Career Research Scientists. They are—

The agency also announced its 2019 ARS Technology Transfer Award winner. This Award recognizes individuals or groups who have done outstanding work in transferring technology to the marketplace.

This year’s winner is Judson V. Edwards, with ARS’s Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research Unit in New Orleans. Edwards, together with ARS colleagues and collaborators in academia and private industry, co-developed a new nonwoven cotton gauze that quickly stanches bleeding and promotes wound healing. The product, known commercially as TACgauze, is made of greige cotton and is 33 percent lighter and 65 percent more absorbent than gauzes made of processed fibers. During trials, the nonwoven greige cotton gauze also triggered blood clotting more quickly—critical to military personnel and first responders when minutes count.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.