William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professors Announced

NC State Memorial Belltower in the fall

Twelve professors in NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were recently named William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professors: Kenneth Anderson, Carolyn Bird, Jeffrey Buckel, Christine Hawkes, Sung Woo Kim, Ramon Leon, Frank Louws, Lina Quesada, Joshua Heitman, Heike Sederoff, Lingjuan Wang-Li and Anna Whitfield. 

The professorship is one of the college’s highest honors, created to recognize outstanding scholars, leaders, teachers and mentors. When William Neal Reynolds established the endowment creating the distinguished professorships in 1950, it was one of the most impactful gifts that had been made to a single CALS program. The gift, one of many made to NC State University by the Reynolds family in Winston-Salem, has benefitted not only the recipients but the many others who have gained from the research, teaching and Extension efforts of those who bear the title of William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor.

Effective June 1, the new William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professors are:

Kenneth Anderson, Prestage Department of Poultry Science

Anderson’s research program focuses on layer management, examining the interplay of genetics and the environment with the physiological response of hens, then correlating that interplay to hen behavior and shell egg safety. He serves as director of the North Carolina Layer Performance and Management Program working in all aspects of layer husbandry and HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) control. In 2020 he was elected Fellow of the Poultry Science Association, the highest honor open to PSA members.

Carolyn Bird, Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences

Bird’s scholarship includes academic instruction, outreach and applied research. She has two overarching research focuses: the intersection of families, rural communities and economic policy and leadership in education settings. She is the state principal investigator on a multi-state project investigating family health, health policy and economics affecting low-income, rural families. Her leadership in education settings focuses on K-12 public schools and universities. Her K-12 study employs an interdisciplinary approach to gain a fuller understanding of teacher and administrator practices that contribute to an equitable learning environment for African American students. Study results are expected to inform teacher-educator programs and school system diversity and equity goals.

Jeffrey Buckel, Department of Applied Ecology

Buckel is a fisheries ecologist, who works in marine and estuary habitats. His research is concentrated in areas that further our understanding of the population dynamics of fishery resources. Investigations focus on identifying and understanding processes which underlie recruitment variability in marine and estuarine fishes. Specifically, the influence of abiotic factors and biotic interactions on growth and mortality of juvenile fishes has been examined. His laboratory conducts applied research that directly addresses assessment and management of local and regional fisheries. Buckel serves on the North Carolina Finfish Advisory Committee and South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s science and statistical committees.

Christine Hawkes,Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Hawkes is an ecologist studying the functions of plant and soil microbiomes. She received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Bucknell University, and her Ph.D. in biology from the University of Pennsylvania. In her dissertation research, she addressed how soil microorganisms affected population viability of endangered plants. As a David H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellow, she studied the role of soil microbes in plant invasions and nitrogen cycling at the University of California, Berkeley. As a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellow, she addressed how root-associated microbes affect carbon cycling with warming temperatures. Hawkes currently leads a cross-disciplinary research program focused on how plant microbiomes mediate plant stress phenotypes and how drought and climate legacies affect plant and soil microbiomes.

Sung Woo Kim, Department of Animal Science 

Kim has developed a world-class and productive research program in monogastric nutrition. The results of his research have significantly advanced our knowledge about intestinal health and amino acid nutrition, and functional nutrients in monogastric animals. Current research by the Kim Lab is focused on nutritional interventions to manage mucosal microbiota, mucosal immunity in the small intestine, especially through maternal nutrition or directly to young pigs. Kim serves the animal science community as associate editor for Journal of Animal Science, Animal Bioscience, Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, Animal Nutrition, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, and Toxins.

Ramon Leon Gonzalez, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences

Leon’s research has focused on understanding population and evolutionary changes affecting weed dynamics in response to agronomic and environmental factors. He has conducted research in California, the Midwestern United States and Costa Rica on crops such as citrus, corn, grapevines, pastures, rice, soybeans, sugar cane, and vegetables. His teaching program is designed to encourage students to practice integrated agroecosystem management and to be socially and environmentally responsible. Leon is an associate editor for Weed Science, Weed Research, Peanut Science, and previously for Weed Technology, and he is currently in the editorial board of Agronomy.

Frank Louws, Department of Horticultural Science

Louws is a Fellow of the American Phytopathology Society (APS) and has been awarded the APS Excellence in Extension and APS Excellence in Regulatory Affairs and Crop Security. He values the linkage between basic science and translative outcomes that help farmers, companies, and citizens in growing horticultural plants. He has secured over $42 million in external funds to advance the mission of the horticultural crop production system. His research and Extension program focuses on strawberry and vegetable production systems, with an emphasis on sustainability and disease management. He is also an active member of the American Society for Horticultural Science, APS and is frequently active on panels and in editorial roles.

Lina Quesada, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology

Quesada’s research program focuses on studying diseases of cucurbits, sweetpotato, and other vegetable and specialty crops to deliver novel disease management strategies. Her group blends applied and basic research to provide science-based disease management recommendations to vegetable growers in North Carolina and advance our knowledge in the field of plant pathology. She conducts lab, greenhouse, and field experiments to test the efficacy of disease control measures and provide disease management recommendations to growers. She works in close collaboration with The North Carolina Plant Disease and Insect Clinic to assist with diagnostics of cucurbit and sweetpotato diseases.

Joshua Heitman, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Heitman’s research spans multiple applications: improving soil productivity and resilience in commodity and alternative crops; enhancing soil functions like water infiltration for stormwater management in urban or disturbed soils; and fundamental investigations on soil hydraulic, thermal and electrical properties. Heitman is a frequent contributor to graduate committees in civil engineering, bio and ag engineering, horticulture, natural resources, and more. His expertise makes him a valued resource for many groups interested in understanding the cycling of soil disturbance and settling on gas exchange, water transfer, and nutrient cycling in both agricultural and urban systems. His major research goals are to detail soil water and energy budgets for evaporation and evapotranspiration, improve efficiency and services of agricultural, urban, and marginal soils, and develop theoretical frameworks and measurement systems to quantify soil processes.

Heike Sederoff, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Sederoff is an expert in plant physiology and metabolic engineering. Her research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms responsible for plant responses to nutrient limitations of nitrogen, phosphate and water. To improve sustainability of agricultural crop production, her research group has engineered new pathways into plants that improve their efficiency in photosynthetic CO2 fixation, reduce energy and carbon losses, and increase their nutrient use efficiency. Her lab is working on metabolic engineering to increase oil see crop yield in Camelina sativa. In addition they are working on new technologies to modify the plastid genome and regenerate homoplasmic crops. This technology will enable the generation of crops with better pest-resistance and provide a platform for the fast and safe production of biopharmaceuticals. 

Lingjuan Wang-Li, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Wang-Li specializes in air quality engineering and food animal production systems environmental control. Much of her research addresses various aspects of air emission and environmental control issues associated with animal feeding operations (AFOs). Wang-Li’s research program has been well-funded by USDA, NSF, EPA and industrial sectors in three general directions: air quality engineering, including monitoring, modeling, and mitigating air emissions and associated fate and transport of the emissions; animal production systems environmental control and management; and sustainable animal production and animal well being. In addition to research, Wang-Li also teaches the undergraduate course Management of Animal Environment as well as the graduate course Aerosol Science & Engineering. She was appointed to the USDA Agricultural Air Quality Task Force (AAQTF) in 2013 and served on the Task Force from 2013-2017 and 2021-2023.

Anna Whitfield, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology

Whitfield joined NC State in 2017 as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in Emerging Plant Diseases and Global Food Security. Whitfield is known internationally for her work on plant-virus-vector interactions. Her research revealed the events and molecular interactions leading to virus acquisition and transmission by arthropod vectors. The long-term goal of her research is to develop biologically-based strategies for controlling viruses and arthropod vectors. Whitfield’s research scholarship around virus-vector relationships is enabling development of innovative strategies that disrupt the cycle of disease in the field, e.g. blocking insect acquisition of plant viruses through manipulation of viral protein-insect receptor interactions and using RNAi to control insect vectors by knocking out essential genes. Whitfield works with emerging viruses and vectors that threaten food security and collaborate with team members to control other plant pathogens. 

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

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