Tag Archives: PPWS

Shawn Askew and Jacob Barney recognized by Weed Science Society of America

The Weed Science Society of America has honored 30 individuals for their outstanding contributions to the field of weed science. The awards were presented during the organization’s annual meeting, held this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Our annual awards program recognizes the many outstanding scientists who are spearheading innovations and advancing the weed science profession through their research, teaching, publishing and outreach,” said Dallas Peterson, president of WSSA.

This year’s winners include two of our own faculty:


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Faculty awarded Certificate of Teaching Excellence

Congratulations to Anton Baudoin, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Susan Day who were recently recognized for their ongoing and exemplary commitment to teaching students in the college with the Certificate of Teaching Excellence. They will be formally recognized in May, and a news release at that time will further detail their accomplishments.

Anton Baudoin, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, focuses on biology and control of fungal diseases of grapes, with an emphasis on powdery and downy mildew, and Botrytis bunch rot.

Elizabeth Gilbert, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, is focused on the molecular and cellular signaling mechanisms associated with energy metabolism in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue across different species.

Susan Day, an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture, is dedicated to uncovering practical information that will improve tree health and canopy cover in urbanizing environments and conducts research in a variety of urban forestry issues.

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Jacob Barney’s students say bon appétit to invasive species

Rose Peterson of Norfolk, Virginia, was recently whipping up some pesto, which is generally made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.

But the Virginia Tech senior skipped the basil and instead substituted garlic mustard, a common weed that is one of many invasive plants that are not only ubiquitous, but also delicious.

“Garlic mustard grows commonly in lawns,” said Peterson, who harvested some from her aunt’s house in New Jersey over Thanksgiving break. “You could probably forage some on the Drillfield, too.”

Peterson, who is majoring in biology, made the dish for her biological invasions class at Virginia Tech. For their end of the semester project, students had to not only tell the history of invasive species, they had to cook up a delectable dish to share with the class taught by Jacob Barney.

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Virginia Tech represented at Northeastern Plant, Pest, and Soils Conference

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.

PPWS Ph.D. student Dan Tekiela is joined by Assistant Professor and advisor Jacob Barney as he accepts his award for Outstanding Ph.D. Student

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

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Welcome new faculty!

Our college recently hired eight new faculty members, with the intent on bringing new talent to its focus areas, including food and health, infectious disease, biodesign and processing, and agricultural profitability and environmental sustainability. These new hires are distributed across teaching, research, and Extension.

Please welcome our new faculty members:

  • Carlin Rafie appointed assistant professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise and Extension specialist
  • Charlie Cahoon appointed assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science and Extension specialist
  • Cristina Fernandez-Fraguas appointed assistant professor of food science and technology
  • Hannah Scherer appointed Extension specialist and assistant professor of agricultural, leadership, and community education
  • Laura Strawn named Extension specialist and assistant professor of food science and technology
  • Maria Sharakhova joins entomology faculty
  • Olga Isengildina-Massa named associate professor of agricultural and applied economics
  • Travis Mountain named Extension specialist, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics
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Scenes from the 2015 CALS picnic

Photos by William McKenzie


Members of CALSSA hand out gift bags.


Hethwood Market provided tasty lunch fare.

More photos >>
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Westwood leads workshop on plant genomics and bioinformatics in Morocco

Group of Morocco workshop participants.

Participants of the workshop in Morocco.

A group of US researchers with expertise in parasitic plant genomics recently travelled to Morocco to exchange information and coordinate research with Moroccan colleagues. Over 10 days of discussions and field visits, the group sought to connect the fundamental biology of plant genomes with the goal of improving faba bean production in Morocco.

The parasitic plant Orobanche crenata (crenate broomrape) is a devastating weed in North Africa. It primarily attacks faba bean in Morocco, attaching to the roots of the crop and growing unseen in the soil until eventually producing a large floral shoot that emerges above ground. The effect of parasitism on this important crop is devastating, with yields reduced to zero under conditions of heavy parasite infestation. Despite decades of plant breeding effort, few cultivars of faba bean have resistance to the parasite and has led to a precipitous decline in acreage under faba bean cultivation. Into this grim situation the new technologies of genomics brings hope of understanding plant parasitism and breeding improved faba bean varieties that can withstand Orobanche attack. The Moroccan government recently began to invest in “next-generation” sequencing technology with the goal of improving faba bean and other crops of national importance. However, although next generation sequencing is powerful, it generates massive quantities of data that pose new challenges for analysis and interpretation. Continue reading

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Virginia Tech professors travel to Roanoke for special experiments

Virginia Tech researchers David Schmale and David Lally, working in conjunction with high school teachers Cindy Bohland and Michael Collver, have been funded by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment and Fralin Life Science Institute to develop an ethics education module to engage local high school students. This is one of a cluster of interdisciplinary projects recently developed in association with the ISCE Applied Ethics Initiative to examine ethical issues related to development of new autonomous vehicle technologies. Some potential uses of AVTs include driverless cars, unmanned aerial vehicles, and underwater and space exploration modules.

As one of Virginia Tech’s premier research investment institutes, the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment fosters and facilitates interdisciplinary research and creative efforts in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. To strengthen the university’s competitive position in the social sciences and humanities, ISCE provides organizational, technical, and financial support for targeted research and educational endeavors that address issues of social and individual transformation. Participants in ISCE’s Applied Ethics Initiative are involved interdisciplinary collaborations on topics with real-world ethical dimensions.

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Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science hosted third annual research mini-symposium

The Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science graduate student organization hosted the third annual research mini-symposium in Fralin Hall atrium and auditorium at Virginia Tech on Feb. 19, 2015. The research symposium provided a great opportunity for faculty and graduate students to interact with each other and familiarize themselves with the diversity of ongoing research in the department.

The event took place in two phases: the graduate student poster contest followed by the keynote presentation by the guest speaker. In the poster contest, a total of 15 students presented their M.S. or Ph.D. research. Each poster was judged by three different faculty members and the top three individuals were selected on the basis of research quality, poster appearance, and student’s ability to effectively interact with the judges. The winners of the poster contest were Sandeep Singh Rana, Kasia Dinkeloo, and Hailey Larose. Each winner received a travel award for attending a research conference in their respective areas of study.

Student Name

Major Advisor

Research Topic

Sandeep Rana Shawn D. Askew Does Annual Bluegrass Influence Golf Ball Deceleration and Trajectory on Putting Greens? Measuring Precision and Accuracy of Ball Roll Devices
Kasia Dinkeloo John McDowell and Guillaume Pilot Identifying Mechanisms of Nutrient Transport from Plants to Biotrophic Pathogens
Hailey Larose James H. Westwood Elucidating the Germination Mechanism of Parasitic Orobanchaceae through Comparative Transcriptomics

The poster contest was followed by keynote presentation entitled “Sustainability and Sustaining Agriculture” by Dennis Avery. Avery is currently the director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute. Prior to joining Hudson Institute, he served as the senior agricultural analyst for the U.S. Department of State. Avery has authored and co-authored several books and articles on issues like global warming, climate change, GMOs, pesticides, organic farming, industrial farming, etc. He travels the world as a speaker, has testified before Congress, and has appeared on most of the nation’s major television networks, including a program discussing the bacterial dangers of organic foods on ABC’s “20/20.”

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Translational Plant Sciences Mini-symposium a success

The Translational Plant Sciences Mini-symposium was recently held on Feb. 13, 2015. There were more than 80 registered participants, and it was a great event!

Julien Besnard, graduate student in Sakiko Okumot’s lab in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science won the graduate student oral paper competition. The title of his presentation was “Is UMAMIT14 the first uni-directional amino acid exporter characterized in plants?”


Shelton Boyd, an undergraduate student researcher in Guillaume Pilot’s lab in Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science won the poster competition. The title of his poster was “Functional characterization of variants of the Arabidopsis amino acid transporter AAP1.”

Christopher Clarke, a postdoctoral researcher in Jim Westwood’s lab won the first Translational Plant Sciences Entrepreneurship challenge. The title of his winning entrepreneurship idea was “Engineering an endogenous plant detector of pathogen RNAs.”

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