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USDA-ARS Innovators Honored as Finalists of Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals for Transformative Contributions to Science and Agriculture

Contact: Katharina Hirschi

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2024 —The United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) announces the recognition of three scientists as finalists for the 2024 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals.

Research Leader Yan Ping (Judy) Chen and Research Entomologist Jay Evans, both of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, are recognized for their transformative efforts in revolutionizing bee disease diagnosis and treatment. Tara McHugh, Pacific West Area Director in Albany, California, is also recognized for her visionary leadership and pioneering contributions to the development of novel healthy processed food products.

The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, widely known as the "Sammies," honors federal employees who make significant contributions to the well-being of the American people through their exemplary service and visionary leadership.

"The achievements of these scientists represent the pinnacle of excellence in scientific research and public service," said Agricultural Research Service Administrator Simon Liu. "Their unwavering commitment to innovation and their profound impact on society underscore the vital role of federal employees in advancing the well-being of the American people."

'Left: Research leader Yan Ping (Judy) Chen conducts a field inspection. (Photo by Michele Hamilton, ARS) Right: Research entomologist Jay Evans holds a honeycomb. (Photo by Maria McCarthy, Hawaii Department of Agriculture)

Chen and Evans have been instrumental in harnessing cutting-edge molecular and genomic technologies to combat the decline of honeybee populations. Their collaborative research addresses critical threats such as parasite infestation, habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and pathogen evolution–bolstering bee health and safeguarding agricultural ecosystems vital to global food security.

Self-described as "bee doctors," the duo have pioneered novel treatments for bee ailments to combat antibiotic resistance and have developed solutions to neutralize pesticide exposure.

Tara McHughARS Pacific West Area Director Tara McHugh poses with some of the many products researched and developed by her team in the ARS Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit in Albany, California. (Photo by Stephen Ausmus, ARS)

Tara McHugh has spearheaded initiatives to develop nutritious, shelf-stable food products that mitigate food waste, improve nutrition, and foster economic growth in underserved communities. Her tireless advocacy for innovation and entrepreneurship has catalyzed the creation of new companies, generating employment opportunities and advancing agricultural research across diverse scientific domains.

McHugh's partnerships with entrepreneurs and innovators have facilitated the development of nutritious snacks, including a crunchy oat snack for children and a healthy protein and fiber-rich new food ingredient powder derived from brewers spent grains. Her visionary leadership and scientific acumen created a shift in the food industry, offering solutions to combat food waste and enhance public health.

The recognition of Chen, Evans and McHugh demonstrates the dedication and ingenuity of USDA-ARS scientists in addressing pressing challenges and advancing the frontiers of science, technology and agriculture.

Since its inception in 2002, the Sammies have honored over 700 outstanding federal employees. All finalists are eligible for the Service to America Medals People’s Choice Award. You can support ARS scientists by voting for Chen, Evans and McHugh online starting today.

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 U.S. agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.