UF/IFAS scientists honored as UF Research Foundation professors

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, who are trying to solve global issues as wide-ranging as better alternative fuels and nutrient absorption, have been named as UF Research Foundation Professors for 2016-19.

The recognition goes to faculty who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that’s likely to continue to distinguish them in their fields.

“UF/IFAS faculty research continuously shows its value in practical ways, but these faculty members stand out because the University of Florida is recognizing their outstanding work,” said UF/IFAS Dean for Research Jackie Burns. “Their scientific research helps solve global issues ranging from potential solutions to citrus greening to growing crops in a changing climate to finding new sources of alternative energy.”

The following UF/IFAS faculty members earned the recognition:

  • Senthold Asseng, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering. “Global food security, agricultural sustainability and climate change are major challenges for humanity,” Asseng said. “My research goals are to explore adaptation strategies for improving food security in sustainable agricultural systems in the context of climate change using mathematical computer simulation.”
      • Liwei Gu, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition. Gu explores chemistry and absorption of health-promoting components in blueberries, cranberries and grapes.
      • Mark Settles, a professor in horticultural sciences. Settles’ research program focuses on genes required for corn kernel growth and development. “We discovered genes controlling cell division and starch accumulation in the kernel,” Settles said. His current research helps adapt corn to the growing conditions that are expected due to climate change.
      • Chris Wilson, a professor in soil and water science. Wilson’s research program characterizes exposure of aquatic environments to pollutants, effects of those pollutants on aquatic organisms and develops and evaluates the potential of proposed management practices for improving water quality and reducing risks of exposure to aquatic organisms.
      • Wilfred Vermerris, associate professor in microbiology and cell science. Vermerris works on sweet sorghum to get the best yield for sugars that can be fermented to biofuels and chemicals for the production of bio-degradable plastics. He and his team have bred sweet sorghums that are disease-resistant and yield large amounts of sugars and biomass. They are also developing sweet sorghums that are very efficient with the available water, and that produce biomass that can be converted more easily to fermentable sugars.
      • Nian Wang, an associate professor in microbiology and cell science who conducts his research at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. Wang’s research focuses on citrus bacterial diseases including Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening; and citrus canker. He and his team are trying to understand the interaction between the host – a citrus tree — and the pathogens, and generate disease-resistant citrus using genome editing technology.

    The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant. The professorships are funded from the university’s share of royalty and licensing income on UF-generated products.

    “Our faculty are constantly searching for ways to help feed the hungry, preserve our fresh water, protect our crops and ensure we get the proper nutrition to stay healthy,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “I am constantly amazed at the scientific results produced by our extraordinary faculty.”

    During each of the three years, the award winners receive a salary supplement of $5,000 and a one-time allocation of $3,000 to support their research program.


    By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

    Source: Jackie Burns, 352-392-1784, jkbu@ufl.edu





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Posted: April 19, 2016

Category: Agriculture, Crops, Health & Nutrition, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Research
Tags: Senthold Asseng, Soil And Water Sciences, Wilfred Vermerris

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