Each year, the UM System President’s Awards are presented on behalf of President Mun Choi to faculty members across the four universities of the UM System. These highly competitive awards recognize faculty who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the University. President’s Award recipients will be recognized at a Board of Curators meeting on their university campus, as well as at a faculty awards event hosted at their home institution.
This year, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources had three faculty members earn President’s Awards: Thomas Spencer, Chung-Ho Lin and Randall Miles.
Thomas Spencer Receives 2020 President’s Award for Sustained Career Excellence
Thomas Spencer, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Animal Sciences, received the 2020 President’s Award for Sustained Career Excellence from the UM System. This award recognizes faculty for distinguished career-long, sustained excellence in scholarship, research or creativity, for a period of 15 or more years.
Spencer, who is also associate vice chancellor for research (emphasis in STEM disciplines), joined the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) in 2015, and was a signature hire as part of the Mizzou Advantage program. He is an internationally recognized and respected leader in the fields of reproductive and developmental biology. The long-term goal of his work is to improve fertility and pregnancy outcomes in domestic animals and women. Spencer has a joint appointment in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health in the MU School of Medicine and is a faculty research leader in the Precision Health Initiative. He is also the program director of the Interdisciplinary Reproduction and Health Group (IRHG), one of CAFNR’s Programs of Distinction.
According to UM System, in his 23-year career, Spencer has originated widely accepted concepts and paradigm shifts, presented over 120 invited talks, and authored or coauthored over 330 scientific publications with a h-index of 100. In recognition of his significant contributions, he was inducted as a member of the highly prestigious National Academy of Sciences, selected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and received a Curators’ Professorship from the University of Missouri System. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have funded Dr. Spencer without interruption since 1996, and his current active funding is more than $14 million. In 2018 he received the CAFNR Distinguished Research Award.
Chung-Ho Lin Receives 2020 President’s Award for Economic Development
Chung-Ho Lin, associate research professor in the School of Natural Resources, received the 2020 President’s Award for Economic Development from the UM System. This award recognizes faculty for distinguished activity in meeting the University of Missouri’s goal of serving as an economic engine for the state and its citizens. Awardees demonstrate entrepreneurial innovation in using the classroom, outreach programs or the laboratory as vehicles for increasing or developing new economic activity in the state.
Lin’s primary research involves the use of plants, microbes and engineered enzymes for bioremediation, ecological restoration and development of bioeconomy. He is the lead scientist in the bioremediation program at the MU Center for Agroforestry, one of CAFNR’s Programs of Distinction.
Lin has spent the past seven years working to transfer research inventions to industrial applications. His collaborative efforts have successfully launched startups based on research in agricultural production, chemical remediation, biofuels and much more, according to the UM System. One example, Elemental Enzymes, is now a self-sustaining company active in six countries, holding more than 114 patents and employing 37 workers in offices in Missouri and Florida. In 2019, Elemental Enzyme’s products were applied to more than 7 million acres of crops in the U.S. alone, producing more than a billion additional pounds of corn.
Lin is also co-founder and lead scientist of Tiger Enzyme Solutions at the MU Life Science Incubator. Among other projects, the company is developing bioreactor technology to convert blood types to produce the universal donor type O. In addition to 17 patent applications that have generated revenue for MU, Lin collaborates with and strengthens the economic impact of regional biotechnology companies, including SCD Probiotics, Proviera Biotech, Kelly Foods Corporation, and AgriGro.
Randall Miles Receives 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award
Randall Miles, associate professor emeritus of soil science in the School of Natural Resources, received the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award as part of the UM System President’s Awards. The Thomas Jefferson Award is reserved for faculty who rise above excellence and demonstrate clear distinction, not only in their career, but also in service to the University of Missouri and humankind.
Over his career as a beloved instructor at MU, Miles has made a major impact on student education. Beyond that, his profound passions for soil science, human health and community wellbeing have led him to make fundamental contributions to the development of small rural towns. He has leveraged his expertise in wastewater treatment to help smaller municipalities to recycle water back into the local watershed while recycling nutrients for onsite crop utilization and generate income through the installation of low-cost irrigation systems that promote biofuel production. He has also elevated the reputation of the university by establishing the Missouri Onsite Wastewater Training and Research Center, which has served as a major educational resource for regulators, soil scientists, installers, engineers, designers, land-use planners, home inspectors, and homeowners.
Miles has earned numerous awards from CAFNR, including the Dana Brown Haynes Distinguished Service Award in 2018 and the Outstanding Teaching Award in 1993. He served as the director of Sanborn Field for several years as well.
As an expert in both teaching difficult concepts and putting them into action, Miles is a rarity. The fact that he has applied his considerable talent to elevate the quality of life in small-town America make him exceptional, and worthy of the Thomas Jefferson Award, according to the UM System.