Heike Buecking, professor and head of the Biology and Microbiology Department at South Dakota State University (SDSU) College of Natural Sciences, has been named professor and director of the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR). Buecking’s appointment is effective April 1, 2021.
Buecking has held the department head position at SDSU since early 2020; she previously served as associate dean for research and scholarly activity in the College of Natural Sciences at South Dakota State. She has served as a professor in the Biology and Microbiology Department since 2015, after joining SDSU as associate professor in 2009. Buecking was an assistant professor in the Biology Department at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She served as a research assistant professor and postdoctoral scientist at Michigan State University and at the University of Bremen, Germany.
“I am excited about the opportunity to join the CAFNR team as the new director of the Division of Plant Sciences,” Buecking said. “Together with faculty, staff and students of the division, I am looking forward to developing strategies to better prepare students for diverse careers, to enhance research and innovation in the division with the goal to support Mizzou’s land-grant mission, to work collaboratively with other colleges and outside entities on mutually beneficial projects, and to generate a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment for students, staff and faculty in the division.”
Her research focus is on research exchange processes in beneficial plant-microbe interactions and the development of endophytes and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi as microbial fertilizers or pesticides for sustainable agriculture of food and bioenergy crops.
“Her commitment to the land-grant mission, to research and Extension, to educating students, is outstanding, as is her collaborative, inclusive nature,” said CAFNR Vice Chancellor and Dean Christopher Daubert. “I am so pleased to have Dr. Buecking join our college.”
She has experience in establishing interdisciplinary collaborations across colleges and institutions, and in the development of a grant support infrastructure, a research leadership team, and a mentorship program for junior faculty with the goal to advance research activities and enhance research funding success. Buecking developed a strategic plan for research in the College of Natural Sciences, and served on other college-wide committees, such as the University Research Council, at SDSU. She has managed multimillion-dollar grants and projects, and her research program has attracted more than $7 million in research funding. In her career, Buecking has published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature and Science.
For eight years, Buecking coordinated the NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates, a program with the goal to involve undergraduate students early in their career in state-of-the-art research activities. In this position, she placed emphasis on recruiting students from minority populations or from universities with low research activity. Buecking served as chair of the campus Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and as a member of the search committee for the Director of the Office for Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion at South Dakota State. She has been part of advisory boards for inclusion and diversity in STEM, as well as SDSU´s Wokini Initiative to support American Indian student success and Indigenous Nation-building. She has championed and mentored postdoctoral scientists, graduate and undergraduates, including many minority students and non-traditional students.
For her interdisciplinary and international research, Buecking received SDSU’s Global Engagement Award in 2018, the Excellence in Research Award in 2015, the Gamma Sigma Delta Award in 2015, and the Women of Distinction Award in 2012. She has advocated for the importance of agriculture to congressional delegates and collaborated with agricultural stakeholder groups in South Dakota. Buecking received an intellectual property commercialization award in 2016 from SDSU for her work on microbial fertilizers or pesticides, and her successful collaborations with multiple biotech companies. She has also served on advisory and review panels for funding agencies.
Buecking received her Master’s and PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Bremen, Germany.