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College announces new William Neal Reynolds Professors

July 07, 2008

Eight faculty in the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have been named William Neal Reynolds Professors, one of the highest distinctions available to college 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 80 William Neal Reynolds Professorships, including this year's eight.

The 2008 William Neal Reynolds Professors are:

Dr. Robert Anholt
Anholt, a zoologist, is the founder and director of N.C. State's W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology. He conducts a diverse and innovative research program that has grown from its foundation in biochemistry and neurobiology to include the fields of animal behavior and genetics. Following early pioneering studies on signal transduction in the olfactory system, his recent work has focused on chemosensation and genetic architecture of behavior in Drosophila, or fruit flies. Anholt has authored papers that outline the types of genetic, molecular and biochemical approaches one could take to understand the structure of complex biological pathways that lead to specific behaviors. He also uses Drosophila as a model for the study of human disease, including alcoholism and glaucoma. Anholt discovered olfactomedin, the archetype of a family of proteins implicated in diseases, such as congenital glaucoma, and in early development of the nervous system.

Dr. JoAnn Burkholder
Burkholder is a professor of plant biology and director of the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology. She is recognized internationally for her ground-breaking studies into the ecology of aquatic ecosystems. Burkholder co-discovered the toxic dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria, as a causative agent of estuarine fish kills. Her research in this area provided the foundation for medical specialists to link serious human health effects to toxic Pfiesteria, and for toxin chemists to describe a group of potent toxins from this microbe, with potential application in treating memory disorders. Also, by revealing that nutrient pollution stimulates Pfiesteria, her research led to major federal funds to help farmers reduce nutrient runoff. Burkholder also designed the first automated network that provides around-the-clock data on environmental conditions in the Neuse Estuary, and the first automated network to safeguard drinking water for more than half a million North Carolinians.

Dr. John Cavanagh
A professor of molecular and structural biochemistry, Cavanagh is widely regarded as a leader in his field. He focuses his research on how the structure and flexibility of proteins influences how they carry out their roles. Cavanagh was the first to develop a method to increase the sensitivity of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis and co-authored the most well-known book available on biomolecular NMR. He was part of a major research effort that characterized the shape of calbindin-D28K, a protein linked to the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Huntington's. He currently is leading a new effort between N.C. State and the V Foundation for Cancer Research that will introduce young scientists to cancer therapeutic research, encouraging them to pursue careers in combating the disease.

Dr. Eric (Rick) Davis
A plant pathologist, Davis specializes in plant-nematode interactions. His research aims to unravel nematode signals that trigger the molecular and developmental changes in plants that are associated with parasitism. This has led to the development of new approaches in engineering plant resistance to nematodes. Davis' team recently received the Ruth Allen Award, the highest research award given by the American Phytopathological Society. Davis also serves as president of the Society of Nematologists, an international organization designed to advance the science of nematology. He has a stellar teaching record, consistently garnering near perfect reviews, and he mentors a number of graduate students and post-doctoral students. Davis' program is currently the most frequently requested by incoming students in the Department of Plant Pathology.

Dr. David Dickey
Dickey, a professor of statistics, is one of the most highly cited scientists in statistics and economics in the world. His early insights into the statistical issues associated with testing whether or not a time series is stationary have developed into an influential research program. The issues illuminated by Dickey's "unit root" testing methodology (inflation rates, agricultural commodity prices and oil prices, to name a few) are vital economic issues. Important research into each issue has used the testing procedures pioneered by Dickey. Two of his first published papers are cited in support of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Economics. Another paper of his is recognized as one of the 10 most influential papers published in the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics.

Dr. Peter Ferket
A professor of poultry science, Ferket is one of the most highly respected poultry nutritionists in the United States and is recognized internationally for his expertise in feed formulation and feed milling technology. He is frequently called upon by commercial poultry enterprises, academia and governmental agencies to address a myriad of nutritionally related topics. Ferket recently consulted with the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation to reconfigure biological production facilities in the former Soviet Union for the production of animal feed products. He invented a new technology of feeding poultry before they hatch called "in ovo feeding," which helps early development and growth. Recently he was honored as the recipient of the Alltech Medal of Excellence, which recognizes outstanding contributions to nutritional strategies for animal health and performance. As a North Carolina Cooperative Extension Specialist, he has provided leadership as a nutrition expert nationwide.

Dr. Steven Lommel
Lommel, a professor of plant pathology and genetics and interim associate dean for research in the college, manages an internationally acclaimed research program in plant virology. He developed the Red Clover Necrotic Mosaic virus system into the premier model to study virus cell-to-cell movement. Lommel's ground-breaking research on virus structure has led to a new approach for the delivery of foreign genes to cells that has the potential to fight diseases like cancer and HIV. He also discovered that an RNA molecule can function as a regulator of transcription in an RNA virus. This work provides the final link in the RNA origin of life theory and has substantially changed the way scientists look at regulation and control of transcription in a cell.

Dr. Michael Vepraskas
An internationally known soil scientist, Vepraskas studies wetland soils and their interactions with the environment. He discovered the unique color patterns created by soil-groundwater interactions that now form the basis for identification of all jurisdictional wetlands in the United States and abroad. His research has spawned a new field in soil science called "Hydropedology." The U.S. Department of Agriculture has incorporated these features into their soil classification system, and most states have incorporated them into their regulations governing on-site wastewater disposal. This information is taught in virtually all classes around the country that deal with wetlands and soil genesis and classification. Vepraskas authored a text on his research, "Redoximorphic Features for Identifying Aquic Conditions," which has sold 15,000 copies worldwide.

Written by:
Suzanne Stanard, 919-513-3126 or

Posted by Suzanne at July 7, 2008 04:48 PM