Faculty Notes

Agricultural and Applied Economics

Cesar L. Escalante, professor, served as mentor, adviser and coauthor to several graduate students who won national and international awards last summer. Doctoral candidate Tianyuan Luo won a Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Business and Information in July. Minrong Song’s (Ph.D. – Agricultural and Applied Economics, ‘15) paper, “Maintaining Business Viability through the Financial and Natural Adversities of the Late 2000s: Evidence from U.S. Southeastern and Midwestern Farms,” was nominated for an award for Best Conference Paper at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association’s annual conference held in June. At the annual meeting of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in late July, Escalante served as adviser to Luis Pena-Levano (MS – Agricultural and Applied Economics, ’12) and doctoral candidate Grace Melo (MS – Agricultural and Applied Economics, ’13), who won third place in the graduate case study competition. Escalante and Pena-Levano also teamed up to win third place in the Graduate Student Extension Competition.

Nick Magnan, assistant professor, received an international travel grant to research ways to market laser land-leveling technology to underprivileged farmers in India. Magnan is one of 11 College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty members to receive such a grant.

Amanda Smith, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension economist and instructor, received the Tifton Campus Award of Excellence in Teaching in April. She has been at UGA since 2006 and teaches “Introduction to Agribusiness Management” and “Food and Fiber Marketing.”

Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication

Dennis Duncan, professor, was presented with the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Educator Award. He was also chosen by the University of Georgia Center for Teaching and Learning as a 2016-2017 Senior Teaching Fellow.

Nick Fuhrman, associate professor, and Eric Rubenstein, assistant professor, were presented the Outstanding Research Paper Award from the American Association for Agricultural Education. Their paper was titled “Teaching with Animals: The Role of Animal Ambassadors in Improving Presenter Communication Skills.”

Animal and Dairy Science

John K. Bernard, professor, was voted president-elect of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS), which provides certification of animal scientists through examination, continuing education and commitment to a code of ethics. He currently serves as the president of the American College of Animal Sciences.

Ignacy Misztal, professor; Daniela Lourenco, assistant professor; Shogo Tsuruta, research associate scientist; and their postdoctoral associates and graduate students held a three-week summer short course that attracted 51 scientists and graduate students from 12 countries. Participants had an opportunity to learn some of the newest methods in animal genetic evaluation. 

Romdhane Rekaya, professor, was one of 59 U.S. scholars awarded a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship for 2016. As a Carnegie Fellow, he was funded to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, and taught a nearly monthlong international course in animal quantitative genetics and genomics.

Crop and Soil Sciences

Timothy Grey, professor, received the 2016 Dow AgroSciences Award for Excellence in Education from the American Peanut Research and Education Society.

Eric Prostko, professor, was named a 2016 American Peanut Research and Education Society Fellow at the society’s annual meeting.


Darold Batzer, professor, and coeditor Dani Boix of the University of Girona, Spain, published a 2016 reference text, “Invertebrates in Freshwater Wetlands: An International Perspective on Their Ecology.” This year Batzer – with the University of Georgia Department of Entomology’s Joe McHugh and others – was also awarded an Environmental Protection Agency grant for work at the Iron Horse Farm entitled “Integrating Wetland Ecosystem Services into Agriculture: A University of Georgia Demonstration Project.”

Joe McHugh, professor, received a grant from the National Science Foundation to support the Lepidoptera of North America Network, or “LepNet,” a collaboration of 29 research collections working to digitize a total of 2.1 million specimen records of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). McHugh serves as the curator of the University of Georgia Collection of Arthropods at the Georgia Museum of Natural History, where the project will be conducted.

David Riley, professor, is the 2016 recipient of the Entomological Society of America’s (ESA) Recognition Award in Entomology, which honors entomologists making significant contributions to agriculture. He is also currently serving as the president of the Southeastern Branch of the ESA. In his career, he has focused on providing practical solutions for complex pest problems in high-value vegetable crops.

Food Science and Technology

Fanbin Kong, associate professor, was awarded a $496,317 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the safety of nanocellulose – a light, solid substance obtained from plant matter, generally wood pulp – and how it affects the way humans digest food and absorb nutrients.

Ronald Pegg, professor, is the recipient of the 2016 Institute of Food Technologists William V. Cruess Award for Excellence in Teaching and was awarded the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Educator Award. He was also given the 2016 University of Georgia Costa Rica Adelante Award “because of his commitment to growing education abroad, developing his coffee program into a successful program,” according to Quint Newcomer, UGA Costa Rica director.


Marc van Iersel, professor, received the 2016 Outstanding Graduate Educator Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science in recognition of the mentoring he has provided to his own graduate students as well as the leadership he has provided to the horticulture department’s graduate program.

Marc van Iersel, professor, along with laboratory members Sue Dove and Rhuanito Ferrarezi, received the 2016 AmericanHort Alex Laurie Award in recognition of the most significant, floriculture-related applied research paper published in an American Society for Horticultural Science journal. Van Iersel, Dove and Ferrarezi received the award for a paper describing the design, construction and performance of low-cost, automated irrigation controllers that use soil moisture sensors to turn irrigation on and off.

Suzanne O’Connell, assistant professor, was given the Krezdorn Award for Excellence in Doctoral Research and Writing from the Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Science.
Tim Smalley, associate professor, was awarded a Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship by the University of Georgia’s Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. The Meigs Professorship is the university’s highest recognition for excellence in instruction.

Plant Pathology

Phillip Brannen, professor and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist, received the Hill Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach. Presented by the UGA Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, this award recognizes outstanding contributions to the improvement of the quality of life in Georgia and beyond. Brannen serves as the Extension fruit pathologist, conducting research and technology transfer for multiple fruit commodities. His efforts are directed toward developing integrated pest management practices to solve disease issues and technology transfer of disease-management methods to commercial fruit producers.

Robert Kemerait, professor and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist on the UGA Tifton Campus, received the annual Peanut Research and Education Award from the American Peanut Council, the Peanut Foundation and Bayer Crop Science. Kemerait was recognized for his significant contributions in the fields of peanut education and applied research. 
Harald Scherm, professor and department head, was recognized with the 2016 University of Georgia Graduate School Outstanding Mentoring Award in the area of Professional and Applied Sciences. The award is presented to graduate faculty members at the university who have demonstrated excellence in mentoring graduate students; it recognizes innovation and effectiveness in mentoring graduate students individually and as a group in their academic, research and professional development.

Poultry Science

Sammy Aggrey, professor, was awarded a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship and is currently working with the University of Nairobi and International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya to develop the study of genomics for those institutions and throughout Africa.

Drew Benson, assistant professor, joined the poultry science faculty in January. His research program focuses on the underlying mechanisms affecting reproductive fitness in poultry. He also teaches three foundational courses in the department, and presented his work on incorporation of innovative laboratory exercises as a recruiting mechanism at the Poultry Science Association’s annual meeting.

Nick Dale, emeritus professor, was inducted as a Fellow of the Poultry Science Association at the organization’s 2016 meeting. Dale helped to found the Journal of Applied Poultry Research, serving as general editor from 1992 until 2003. His research is internationally renowned for exploring the role of poultry in converting proteins not generally consumed by humans into highly nutritious meat and eggs.