Dear colleagues, staff, students, postdocs/scholars, and friends:
I am writing to express my very best wishes and sincere thanks to all of you as we complete a brilliant 2019 and shift our momentum into a new and thrilling calendar year 2020. The past 12 months have been marked by the remarkable achievements of our faculty, students, staff, postdocs/scholars and colleagues. Together, we have brought the department to a higher level. As we reflect on 2019, I believe that we have many reasons to feel enormous fulfillment through our accomplishments and look forward to 2020 with hope and enthusiasm.
At the beginning of each year, I like to review what we have achieved in the previous year, acknowledge the contributions of our faculty, staff, students, postdocs/scholars, and friends, and highlight a few of our major achievements.
In 2019, we welcomed two new faculty members, Drs. Kathleen Martin (Assistant Professor – Insect Vector Borne Plant Diseases) and Amanda Strayer-Scherer (Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist – Cotton, Peanut, Small Grains and Forages, and Commercial Turfgrass/Ornamental Plant Pathology); and celebrated the retirement of Drs. Austin Haganand John F. Murphy after 38 and 25 years’ service, respectively, to the department.
We also conducted a very successful faculty retreat, in which the department’s committees, curriculum program, graduate program, departmental P&T guidelines and other matters were discussed in detail. We greatly expanded our international efforts in 2019 through faculty exchanges, short-course teaching, and new education abroad programs, among many, many other successes. There is no doubt that without your hard work, dedication, communication and commitment throughout the year, the department could never have come this far.
In 2019, we recruited 13 new students and >10 postdocs/visiting scholars/employees/visiting students. We graduated 10 students (Hongyu, Zhou, Ricki, Qiang, Gamze, Augusta, Gokhan, Chloe, Rishi, and Katlin), and we wish them all the best in the future no matter where they go.
2019 was a remarkable year for several of our faculty members, both for their professional careers and their personal lives. Drs. Held and De La Fuenta were promoted to Full Professor, Dr. Hardy was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, and Dr. Ayanava Majumdar was promoted to Extension Professor. Congratulations to all of you!!!
Many of our faculty, staff and graduate students also received awards at the department, university, state, and/or national levels this year, recognizing their outstanding performance. The following are just a handful of the many successes achieved in 2019.
The F.S. Arant Entomology club, led by Gwendolyn, Yifan, Bush, David Dyer (2018-2019) and Autumn McLaughlin, Seun Oladipupo, Madison Peterson and John Mahas (2019-2020) organized the department’s lively student activity program, including seminars, outreach activities, the Spring Soirée, and other events. Let’s give these students a big round of applause for taking on these extra responsibilities and the effective way they performed their leadership roles.
Entomology graduate students Basu Kafle, Yifan Wang, Seun Oladipupo and Autumn McLaughlin, coached by Dr. Liu, participated in The Linnaean Game competition at the 2019 ESA Southeastern Branch Meeting. The team successfully completed the first round and advanced to the semi-final. Please join me in congratulating the team and wishing them further success as they move on to compete at the state and, perhaps, national levels in 2020.
David Dyer (Dr. Lawrence’s Ph.D. student) earned 2nd place at the Society of Nematology 3-minute thesis competition; Will Groover (Dr. Lawrence’s Ph.D. student), came 1st in the student competition at the APS meeting and 2nd in the student competition at the Beltwide Cotton Conference; Qing Ge (Dr. De La Fuente’s Ph.D. student) received a Graduate Research and Travel Fellowship; and Marcus Silva (Dr. De La Fuente’s Ph.D. student) was honored with the Outstanding International Student award by the College of Agriculture; Wenshan Liu, (Dr. Sang Wook Park’s ph.D. student) earned the Highest Scoring Graduate Poster at the PAWC.
Prabha Liyanapathiranag (Dr. Potnis’s program) and Laura Melissa Gómez Arias (Dr. De La Fuente’s program) shared the 1st place award in the College of Agriculture’s Poster Showcase for Ph.D. students, and Carolina Palencia (visiting student in Dr. De La Fuente’s program) came 2nd in the same competition.
Marcus Silva (Dr. De La Fuente’s Ph.D. student), Zhou Chen (Dr. Liu’s Ph.D. student), and Ambika Pokhrel (Dr. Coleman’s M.S. student) were worthy recipients of the department’s Outstanding Graduate Student Awards this year. It was a tough choice, but their hard work and exceptional accomplishments made them stand out among our excellent student body.
Yifan Wang (Liu’s Ph.D. student) won 1st Prize and Olufemi Ajayi (Dr. Fadamiro’s Ph.D. student) won 2nd Prize in the Graduate Student Poster Competition at the Annual Meeting of the SEB-ESA 2019; John Mahas (Dr. Alana Jacobson’s M.S. student) won 1st Prize and Basu Kafle (Dr. Fadamiro’s Ph.D. student) won 2nd Prize in the Graduate Student Poster Competition at the ESA 2019 Annual Meeting; Seun Oladipupo (Ph.D. student in Drs. Hu and Appel’s programs) received a PestWorld 2019 Internship and Graduate Student Council Travel award
Our Faculty have also been engaged in some outstanding research, teaching, instruction, outreach and services. Drs. Alana Jacobson, Geoff Williams, Jeff Coleman, and Kathy Lawrence were all recipients of the Dean’s Grantsmanship Awards in 2019.
Dr. Kira Bowen served as the President of APS in 2018-2019. Dr. Kathy Lawrence is the current Vice President of the Society of Nematology (2019-2020) and was appointed an AU Alumni professor (2019-2022). Dr. Arthur Appel became the Faculty Endowed Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University (2019-2022), and Dr. Jeff Coleman was honored with the Schroth Faces of the Future Award in Mycology by the American Phytopathological Society.
Dr. Ayanava Majumdar received the ALFA Award for Production Research & Extension Gold National Award for his Farming Basics Online Course from the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE); the Bronze Award for Informational Video Production from ACE; the Blue Ribbon Extension Communications Award; and two Extension Communication Regional Awards from the National Association of County Extension Agents (NACAA).
Drs. Hardy, Potnis and De La Fuente received the Outstanding Publication Award from AU’s College of Agriculture in 2019. Dr. John Beckmann published papers in PNAS and eLIFE.
Dr. Hu led the AU/COA Study Abroad Program visiting China with college undergraduate and graduate students in 2019.
I would like to part of the complex motor that extend our special appreciation to our departmental staff and student workers for their dedication and hard work. They are a vital supports us as we do what we do. Their professionalism, diligence, self-motivation, and dedication are a constant source of inspiration.
I am confident that our department – and all of you who are part of it – will continue to make us proud in 2020. I count myself fortunate to work alongside such a great team of researchers, teachers and staff who make our department a very special place to work. Thank you all for the commitment and enthusiasm that has allowed us to achieve so much: you are the reason behind our success.
Finally, I would like take this opportunity to thank the College of Agriculture, the Dean, the Dean’s Office, and ACES for their passion and strong support for our Department and the many and varied programs we deliver. We could not do it without you.
With very best wishes,
Dr. Nannan Liu
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology