Written by Shawn D. Askew and Thomas P. Kuhar
The first meeting of the Northeastern Plant, Pest, and Soils Conference was held in Philadelphia Jan. 3-7, 2016, and Virginia Tech faculty and students were well recognized for outstanding contributions to research and education and award winning scientific presentations. The event was hosted by the Northeastern Weed Science Society and organized with input from the Eastern Branch of Entomological Society of America, the Northeastern Division of the American Phytopathological Society, the Northeastern Division of ASA-CSSA-SSSA, and the Northeastern Division of the American Society of Horticultural Sciences.
Over 750 authors and co-authors submitted scientific works to be included in the first NEPPSC program. The program included 311 presentations, 86 of which were judged in student paper competitions. Several faculty and students from Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences served leadership roles in organizing this historic conference:
- Shawn Askew, program chair and member of NEPPSC Organizing Committee
- John Brewer, student representative to the NEPPSC Organizing Committee
- Carlyle Brewster, section chair and moderator, Entomology Student Contest Session
- Jacob Barney, section chair and moderator, Biology, Ecology, Taxonomy, & Evolution Session
- Steve Haring, section chair and moderator, Weed Science Student Contest Session
- Douglas Pfeiffer, section co-chair, Invasive Species Session
- Kara Pittman, section chair and moderator, Weed and Pathology Student Contest Session
- Michael Flessner, section co-chair, Poster Session
The scientific endeavors of Virginia Tech faculty and students were recognized by various participating societies. In the Northeastern Weed Science Society, the Outstanding Educator and Outstanding Ph.D. student awards for 2015 were presented to Shawn Askew and Dan Tekiela, respectively, each from Virginia Tech’s Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science. Dan Tekiela, advised by Jacob Barney, also won first place in the NEWSS Student Oral Paper Competition. New leadership positions on the NEWSS Executive Board included Shawn Askew (president), Michael Flessner (editor), and John Brewer (student representative).
The Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America comprised the second largest group of attendees with over 100 scientists and the largest group of student contest papers. The Virginia Tech Linnaean Games team, which is coached by Tom Kuhar, and is comprised of entomology graduate students James Wilson, Louie Nottingham, Jamie Wahls, and Ben Aigner, won first place in this traditional entomology quiz bowl competition; the team won $2000 to compete at the national competition in Orlando, Florida in September 2016. Louie Nottingham, advised by Tom Kuhar, also won second place in the student poster competition.
Although the Northeastern Division of the American Phytopathological Society does not include the Commonwealth of Virginia, several Virginia Tech faculty and staff presented papers at the NEPPSC.
In addition to the awards and recognitions that Virginia Tech received within the various individual societies, students from several departments in the college combined together and competed in a multidisciplinary Quiz Bowl against seven other land-grant institutions. Virginia Tech took first place in this inaugural competition.