Message from the Director

Heike BuckingHeike Bücking

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The spring semester is well underway in the Division of Plant Science and Technology (DPST) as our faculty and staff continue to provide learning and leadership opportunities for our students in classrooms and research laboratories. We have made it our mission to keep students on track toward graduation, and to provide them with high-quality education that allows them to fill critical jobs and find life-long career opportunities. To make sure that our students stay on track and reach their career goals, we hired an additional student advisor, Mackenzie Ewing, who guides the students through their first semesters, and sets them on a path for graduation success. In addition, we made an investment to provide our students with state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory experiences.

The newly renovated Henry Kirklin Plant Sciences Learning Laboratory provides our students with an innovative learning environment, and our additional investment in state-of-the-art equipment allows us to better prepare our students for a broad range of future careers. In 2020, 96 percent of our students started their career within 6 months of graduation. I am appreciative of the effort everyone within the Division, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and the University has made to achieve these goals for our students.

The last year brought many highlights for DPST. In July of 2021, we integrated the Agricultural Systems Technology program into the Division. This will allow us to develop new synergisms in the teaching, research, and Extension enterprise of these two units, and will allow our students to get wide-ranging education and training. The world-class researchers in the Division of Plant Science & Technology (DPST) continued to excel in cutting-edge research. One of the main goals of the research and scholarly activity in the Division is to identify solutions to “real-life problems” that threaten the agronomic productivity in Missouri, the U.S., and the world. In addition to the numerous research presentations that we shared with our stakeholders directly, DPST faculty published, in 2021 alone, 225 peer-reviewed journal articles including articles in highly prestigious journals such as Science and Nature. The impact of DPST’s researchers on the scientific community can also be measured by the number of citations of these journal contributions. In 2021, the research work of our faculty was cited 26,816 times, an increase of 43 percent compared to 2018. Two of our faculty members were recognized last year as highly cited researchers in their field. Research expenditures serve as an important quality indicator for a research program, and in 2021, DPST’s faculty generated $11.28 million in research expenditures. The involvement of undergraduate students in the research programs of these faculty can be a life-changing experience. It allows our students to use state-of-the-art technologies, and directly apply what they have learned in their undergraduate courses to important research questions.

We hired three new faculty members for the Fisher Delta Research, Extension and Education Center (REEC) (Dr. Justin Calhoun, Dr. Justin Chlapecka, and Dr. Bradley Wilson), who will help farmers to increase the productivity of their crops, particularly in the Missouri bootheel. We are currently in the process of hiring an additional crop protection state Extension specialist for the Fisher Delta REEC, and an assistant professor in applied soil science, agroecology and landscape management for the Lee Greenley Jr. Memorial Farm, who will both enable us to improve our Extension services for our stakeholders. We are currently also interviewing candidates for the MizzouForward program, a new campus initiative with the goal to strengthen innovation in different research disciplines, and we expect that this exciting new program will add first-class research scientists to our already strong group of scientists in the Division.

Academic programs continuously need to adapt to optimally prepare their students for future careers that don´t yet exist. To further improve our teaching and research programs, we are currently undergoing a faculty-driven strategic planning process. This future-oriented process will allow us to establish ambitious goals and identify major steps that will help us to achieve our mission: to train our students in emerging technologies and optimally prepare them for their future careers; to discover and disseminate new knowledge that will help us to address current and future challenges in plant sciences; and to enhance the sustainability of agriculture.

I am a proud member of the Division of Plant Science and Technology, and I am looking forward to a successful year in 2022.

Sincerely,

Heike Bücking