CALS Researchers Named Science and Innovation Fellows

CALS scientists honored recently with national fellowships are (from left) Susan Lamont, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences, William Beavis, professor and G.F. Sprague Chair in Agronomy, and Guru Rao, associate vice president for research at Iowa State. 

Three scientists in Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science have recently received notable national recognition for research and innovation.

CALS faculty named as new fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are William Beavis, professor and the G.F. Sprague Chair in Agronomy, and Susan Lamont, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Department of Animal Science.

The National Academy of Inventors named Guru Rao, an associate vice president for research at Iowa State, as one of its 2019 fellows.  


Beavis, who has been with Iowa State since fall 2007 was recognized by the AAAS “for distinguished contributions at the interfaces of the biological and mathematical disciplines, especially for the understanding and dissection of complex traits through genomic and information technologies.”

He is often cited for discovering the tendency toward statistical bias in estimated genetic effects, which has come to be known as the “Beavis Effect.” Beavis’ current research goals include transforming plant breeding from an agricultural art into an engineering discipline. For this, he uses applied mathematics to design efficient breeding systems for adapting and developing resilient crops for rapidly changing environments.

Lamont, a former chair of the Department of Animal Science and interim director of the Egg Industry Center, was selected by AAAS for her “distinguished contributions to the fields of poultry genetics and poultry immunology, particularly the genetics of host immune response.”

At Iowa State since 1983, her work includes studying the relationship of natural genetic variation in chickens with their ability to resist the negative impacts of stress and disease.

Beavis and Lamont join four others from Iowa State selected for this year’s class of national AAAS fellows recognized for “scientifically or socially distinguished” work in biological sciences, chemistry, engineering and agriculture. Read more about ISU’s 2019 AAAS fellows, who will be honored next February at the AAAS annual meeting in Seattle.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of “Science” and other journals. Founded in 1848, the AAAS includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science. 

National Academy of Inventors

National Academy of Inventors fellows are recognized for demonstrating “a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.”

The academy specifically cited Rao for his work in biochemistry, which has focused on engineering proteins for the nutritional enhancement of crops, such as corn and soybeans, and designing proteins for resistance to insects and fungal pathogens. Rao, former chair of ISU’s Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, has 28 patents from 1995 to 2017. He is also an AAAS fellow, selected in 2016 for his contributions to the field of crop improvement.

Rao joined Iowa State in 2006 after working 18 years as a researcher and senior research leader at DuPont Pioneer. As an associate vice president for research, he currently focuses on identifying funding opportunities, building relationships with federal and other research sponsors, and working with researchers from across the university to build interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams to conduct high-impact research.

Also named as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors is Balaji Narasimhan, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering at Iowa State, who is also the Vlasta Klima Balloun Faculty Chair and the director of Iowa State’s Nanovaccine Institute. Rao and Narasimhan will be inducted as National Academy of Inventors fellows in April during the academy’s annual meeting in Phoenix. At that time, they will be Iowa State’s seventh and eighth fellows of the academy, which was founded in 2010 and includes fellows and members from more than 250 institutions around the world.


This release is revised from information provided by Iowa State University’s News Service.