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Four new Reynolds Professors named

June 07, 2007

An entomologist, a plant pathologist, an economist and a sociologist are the newest William Neal Reynolds Professors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.

The William Neal Reynolds Professorship is one of the highest distinctions available to N.C. State University faculty members.

The Reynolds Professorships were established in 1950 by William Neal Reynolds, long-time president and board chairman of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, to recognize and support outstanding faculty achievement in research, teaching and extension. According to the endowment agreement, the professorships "will be for the purpose of selecting and retaining in the College's faculty and staff great scholars, great teachers, great scientists and great interpreters."

Since then, N.C. State and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have awarded 72 William Neal Reynolds Professorships, including this year's four.

The four newest Reynolds professors are:

  • Dr. Rick Brandenburg, professor of entomology;

  • Dr. Margaret Daub, professor and head, Department of Plant Biology;

  • Dr. Walter Thurman, professor of agricultural and resource economics;

  • Dr. Michael Schulman, professor of sociology and anthropology.

Dr. Rick Brandenburg
Brandenburg is a professor of entomology and a North Carolina Cooperative Extension entomologist. He conducts research and extension programs focusing on insect pest management in peanuts and turf. Brandenburg's work has changed pest management practices and reduced insect management costs for both peanuts and turf. He serves as co-director of the North Carolina Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education, which is designed to promote environmentally benign management of the state's 2.2 million acres of turfgrass. Brandenburg also leads a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program that sponsored research in Thailand, the Philippines and Ghana. Brandenburg's work in Ghana is credited with increasing peanut yields two to three fold and dramatically increasing peanut acreage.

Dr. Margaret Daub
Daub is a plant pathologist who serves as head of the Department of Plant Biology. Much of her research has focused on Cercospora, fungi that cause diseases on a wide range of plants. Cercospora species produce a toxin called cercosporin, which is activated by light to produce a particularly damaging form of reactive oxygen. Daub was the first to demonstrate that fungal pathogens use photoactivated toxins to parasitize their hosts. She also identified and characterized the molecular and biochemical mechanisms that regulate cercosporin production. This research led to the discovery that vitamin B6 provides protection from reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress and laid the foundation for studies demonstrating the importance of vitamin B6 in cellular antioxidant defenses in plant stress responses. Daub has also had a long-term interest in developing disease-resistant plants through genetic engineering, including the development of chrysanthemum resistant to the tomato spotted wilt virus and tobacco resistant to the fungal brown spot disease.

Dr. Walter Thurman
Thurman's work has focused on understanding markets for agricultural products: peanuts, tobacco, poultry and pollination services among them. His research has added greatly to economists' knowledge of how these markets work and how agricultural policy affects them. He has been praised by colleagues for applying economic thinking to tangible problems and policy issues. Thurman's analyses of the economic effects of federal agricultural regulation, particularly the peanut and tobacco programs, are viewed as definitive by fellow economists. His widely-cited research with Dr. Charles Knoeber, professor of economics at N.C. State University, on compensation schemes in the poultry industry has spawned a large body of research on the economics of livestock production contracts.

Dr. Michael Schulman
Schulman is a nationally and internationally known rural sociologist. Research topics include the decline of the black farmer, changes in the Southern textile industry, the impact of globalization and restructuring and rural communities. Recently, his work has focused on farm family occupational health and safety and adolescent work and occupational safety. He is an adjunct professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health. Schulman was cited in Reynolds Professor nominating materials for work that "addresses the mechanisms underlying major issues of the rural economy and rural communities, their health and well-being and the changing structure of rural economies." He was also cited for being a founder in the 1970s of the "sociology of agriculture," for "extending the insights of economic sociology to the study of the farm as a business enterprise" and being a leader in focusing on economic restructuring in the rural South.

Written by:
Dave Caldwell, 919.513.3127 or

Posted by Dave at June 7, 2007 01:50 PM