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CAFNR Faculty Selected to Participate in LEAD21 Program

David Braun, director of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) and professor, plant science & technology and biological sciences; and Deborah Finke, professor and director of undergraduate studies, plant science and technology; were selected as participants in the 19th class of the LEAD21 program, a leadership program aimed at developing leaders in land-grant institutions and their strategic partners who link research, academics and extension for leadership roles at colleges and universities across the nation.

LEAD21 provides an immersive professional development program for academic leaders from the land-grant system. Working in regular small groups meetings combined with three week-long immersive sessions, the participants will learn effective leadership skills for increasingly complex higher education environments as well as strategies for influencing institutional transformation in their current and future leadership positions.

The LEAD21 program is targeted at faculty specialists, program and team leaders, research station and center directors, district and regional directors, department heads and chairs, and others in land-grant universities’ colleges of agricultural, environmental, and human sciences and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The 90 participating faculty and administrators selected for the 19th class of the LEAD21 program can be found on the program website:

Learn more about the LEAD21 program on the LEAD21 Website.

Two CAFNR Faculty Named 2022 Highly Cited Researchers

Two faculty in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources have been named 2022 Highly Cited Researchers by Clarivate. Ron Mittler, Curators’ Distinguished Professor in plant science and technology, along with Bing Yang, professor of plant science and technology, were awarded this prestigious distinction — marking them as among the most influential researchers in the world.

To earn this honor, a researcher must have multiple highly-cited papers ranking in the top 1% by citations for field and year in the Web of Science. According to Clarivate, fewer than 7,000 or about 0.1% of researchers worldwide earned this distinction in 2022.

Center for Regenerative Agriculture Recognized by Missouri Department of Conservation

The CAFNR Center for Regenerative Agriculture (CRA) was recognized with the 2022 External Partner Award by the Missouri Department of Conservation Community and Private Lands Division at its annual banquet in St. Joseph on Oct. 4. Rob Myers, CRA director and adjunct associate professor in plant science and technology, and Kelly Wilson, assistant director, represented the Center for Regenerative Agriculture to receive the award. The pair were presented with a framed photo of cattle grazing on a Missouri pasture with the award notation engraved on the frame by Jason Jensen and Bill White from MDC.

CAFNR Research Symposium Poster Winners Announced

More than 90 posters were showcased at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ first in-person Research Symposium Oct. 12-13. The symposium was held in Memorial Union, and had more than 300 attendees. Winners in three poster categories — undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral — were announced during the closing session on Thursday. The winners are as follows:

Undergraduate Student Poster Award Winners

  • 3rd Place – Kristen Barwick (Biochemistry)
  • 2nd Place – Anna Gonsalves (Food, Nutrition & Exercise Science)
  • 1st Place – Aubrey Pipkins (Food, Nutrition & Exercise Science)

Graduate Student Poster Award Winners

  • 3rd Place – Alexis Jones (Animal Sciences)
  • 2nd Place – Alani Antoine-Mitchell (Biochemistry)
  • 1st Place – Ajay Gupta (Plant Science & Technology)

Postdoctoral Poster Award Winners

  • 3rd Place – Mohammed Abouelezz (Animal Sciences)
  • 2nd Place – Jamshid Ansari (School of Natural Resources)
  • 1st Place – Nga Nguyen (Biochemistry)

Ron Mittler Named Curators’ Distinguished Professor

The University of Missouri Board of Curators has named Ron Mittler, professor of plant science and technology, as a Curators’ Distinguished Professor. A Curators’ Distinguished Professorship is the highest and most prestigious academic rank awarded by the Board of Curators. It is awarded to a select few outstanding scholars with established reputations.

Mittler holds a joint appointment in the Department of Surgery in the MU School of Medicine, and he is also a principal investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center. His research interests are focused on the role Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) play in the regulation of different biological processes and has been on the cover of various journals, including Plant Physiology, Science Signaling, New Phytologist and Trends in Plant Science. His work was most recently published in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, a journal of Nature, showcasing a new way of measuring stress in plants. The project was supported by funders including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

He joined Mizzou in 2018, and has received awards for being a highly cited researcher and for teaching. Mittler is part of the editorial board for The Plant Journal, and is a member of the American Society of Plant Biologists. He received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

Rob Myers Wins the 2022 Agronomic Education and Extension Award

Rob Myers, adjunct professor of plant science and technology and director of the MU Center for Regenerative Agriculture, was awarded the Agronomic Education and Extension Award from the American Society of Agronomy. The Agronomic Education and Extension Award recognizes career excellence in education and/or extension. The emphasis of the award is on the individual’s educational innovations or unique approaches developed and used successfully to encourage learning. This includes demonstrated ability to communicate ideas clearly, influence attitudes, and motivate change in audience action.

CAFNR Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (C-DRIG) Winners Announced

The CAFNR Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (C-DRIG) are offered through the CAFNR Office of Research. The C-DRIG grant supports up to $2,000 or partially support dissertation research projects proposed by doctoral students in the College. Eligible students will have completed their coursework and have advanced to candidacy or will advance to candidacy within six months of the C-DRIG awards.

The 2022 C-DRIG recipients are as follows:

Colby Redifer, advised by Allison Meyer, How does nutrient restriction during late pregnancy affect circulating amino acids in beef cows? 

Tayaton Pongspikul, advised by Laura McCann, Transaction Costs of Establishing a Desalination Plant 

Jose Costa Netto, advised by Felix Fritschi, Soybean Genetic Gain: How did breeding for higher yields change plant hydraulic pathway characteristics? 

Jessica Wilson, advised by Alba Argerich, Impacts of legacy mining on stream functional processes in an urban stream

Katy Stoecklein, advised by Sofia Ortega and Randy Prather, Cytokine supplementation to improve developmental competence of bovine embryos following slow-rate freezing 

Michelle Brooks Receives Mumford Award for Outstanding Staff at 2022 Celebration of Excellence

Michelle Brooks, greenhouse coordinator, was honored with the 2021 Mumford Award for Outstanding Faculty during CAFNR’s Celebration of Excellence ceremony, held April 19.

Brooks manages the Sears Greenhouse complex, the greenhouses on
the roof of the Bond Life Sciences Center, the Ashland Road greenhouse complex, and the new East Campus Plant Growth Facility (ECPGF). In addition to her responsibilities of managing greenhouses, Brooks played a crucial role in the planning and design of the East Campus Plant Growth Facility, from the initial proposal draft to design with the architectural firms. The ECPGF features highly specialized construction and systems.

She has spent more than 20 years in CAFNR, keeping the greenhouse structures up to date through her keen technical knowledge, while providing consultations with the many faculty across campus who use these spaces for their research and teaching.

“Michelle is also a world-class problem solver! She is able to juggle multiple requests for plant growth space that exceed the space that is available,” says David Braun, director of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group. “She has the knowledge and experience to recommend which faculty research projects would be compatible with growing their plants in the same greenhouse room, and importantly, under similar climatic conditions.”

Brooks also provides guidance to student organizations who use the facilities, and she teaches Tiger Garden students how to care for their plants and greenhouse.

“Michelle Brooks is a dedicated, reliable and collegial staff member who is on call 24/7. It’s not uncommon for Michelle to work on holidays so others can enjoy time off,” says Mary Ann Gowdy, assistant teaching professor in the Division of Plant Science & Technology. “She is highly driven and service minded, extremely knowledgeable and happy to help others succeed. Michelle Brooks embodies who and what CAFNR stands for.”

Felix Fritschi Receives Roger L. Mitchell Fellow Award as Part of 2022 Celebration of Excellence

Felix Fritschi, C. Alice Donaldson Professor in Bioenergy Crop Physiology and Genetics in the Division of Plant Science and Technology, received the 2022 Roger L. Mitchell Fellow Award at the CAFNR Celebration of Excellence awards ceremony April 19. Fritschi is the interim director of the Missouri Soybean Center and the Missouri Plant Transformation Core Facility known for its wide-ranging plant transformations. He has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses and has advised 26 graduate students and 39 postdoctoral researchers and visiting scholars.

Fritschi has received $28.1 million in grants in the last five years, and served on the organizing committee for the International Society for Root Research 11th International Symposium. Fritschi is a member of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America and has held leadership positions in both organizations. He was named Outstanding Associate Editor for Agronomy Journal in 2020. He has published 125 total refereed publications.

He has been awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity and received the 2020 Distinguished Research Award from CAFNR.

“Felix richly deserves the Roger L. Mitchell Award,” said John Boyer, Distinguished Research Professor, Plant Science and Technology. The award honors Roger L. Mitchell, a former dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, by recognizing those who elevate the College through collaboration and innovative thinking. The fellowship is awarded annually to a ranked CAFNR faculty member to recognize academic excellence and leadership in one or more areas of the College’s core mission of outreach, research and teaching.