ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Presents Awards to Faculty and Staff

April 8th, 2020

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences honored faculty and staff with awards for teaching, advising, research and extension. The award winners include:

Teaching and Advising Awards

Marna Yandeau-Nelson, an assistant professor in genetics, development and cell biology, received the Early Achievement in Teaching Award. Yandeau-Nelson teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in beginning and advanced molecular genetics. Her expertise ranges from DNA replication and recombination, to gene editing and genomics. See photo and web page.

Nick Christians, a University Professor in horticulture, received the Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Award. His academic career has focused on turfgrass research and teaching for the past 40 years. He has helped more than 700 turfgrass students become successful professionals at golf courses, athletic fields, in academia and in industry. Many of his students have interned or worked at prestigious golf courses and athletic fields. See photo and web page.

Amani Elobeid, an adjunct assistant professor in economics, received the Excellence in Teaching by Lecturers and Adjunct Faculty Award. Elobeid teaches large lecture introductory classes in macroeconomics, microeconomics and agricultural markets. Her students consistently give her good reviews. She works to incorporate new technologies and has developed a new on-line introductory economics class based on the latest concepts. See photo and web page.

Nancy Boury, an assistant professor in plant pathology and microbiology, received the Distance Education Teaching Award. Boury has received numerous awards for teaching and research at Iowa State University during her 20-year career. She often incorporates real-life scenarios in her classes to help students understand the importance of microbes in their lives. See photo and web page.

Scott Smalley, an associate professor in agricultural education and studies, received the Early Adviser Award. Smalley has been an adviser for four years and consistently receives positive feedback from students. Academic advising is key to student success and Smalley works with students individually to help them fulfill their career goals. See photo and web page.

Kelsey Powell, an academic adviser in animal science, received the Early Adviser Award. Powell, who goes “above and beyond,” has helped more than 160 students pursue their career goals. Her student-centered advising and encouragement help students take ownership in long-term planning. She also serves as a member of the transfer articulation committee, the recruitment and retention committee and is a member of the National Academic Advising Association. These connections allow her to better serve students through her resources and partnerships. See photo and web page.

Joan Cunnick, a professor of animal science, received the Outstanding Adviser Award. Cunnick has advised students in the microbiology program for 28 years. She has advised the Microbiology Club for 23 years and helps supports club members in hosting a microbiology workshop for high school students every fall. Cunnick works with students individually and shares her knowledge about professional schools, graduate schools, internships and employment opportunities to help students pursue successful careers. See photo and web page.

James Wright, associate teaching professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, received the Outstanding Service in Student Recruitment and Retention Award. Wright provides outstanding service to undergraduate students through learning communities, clubs, recruitment activities and retention efforts. His goal is to make a positive impact and contribution to student recruitment, retention and graduation, often through sharing his industry-related experiences and insights with students. See photo and web page.

Amy Brandau, an agricultural business academic adviser, received the Learning Community Coordinator Award. Brandau advises transfer students and coordinates the agricultural business learning community. She works with prospective students, peer mentors, transfer students and club officers to make sure students feel welcome and are on track for graduation. Her goal is to inspire, engage and challenge students to become successful graduates. See photo and web page.

Research and Diversity Awards

Nick Serão, assistant professor in animal science, received the Early Achievement in Research Award. During the last four years Serão has established a highly productive swine health research program in genetics and genomics, including research projects on reproduction and statistical methods. Expertise in big data and statistics has allowed him to effectively collaborate with Iowa State faculty and other institutions on multiple projects. He has successfully obtained more than $1.2 million in research grants and $1 million in in-kind industry support. See photo and web page.

Asheesh Singh, associate professor in agronomy, received the Mid-Career Achievement in Research Award and the Raymond and Mary Baker Agronomic Excellence Award. Singh is an accomplished plant breeder and researcher who is a pioneer in combining cultivar development and plant breeding with engineering tools and machine learning-based data analytics. He serves as the Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding at Iowa State University and has developed 36 cultivars grown on more than 6 million acres annually. See photo and web page.

Kan Wang, a professor in agronomy and holder of the Global Professorship in Biotechnology, received the Outstanding Achievement in Research Award. Wang has contributed to major breakthroughs in the area of plant transformation since she came to Iowa State in 1998. Her research explores genome editing technologies used to improve crop values. She is currently a leader on a National Science Foundation $2.9 million project to develop the next generation of crop transformation tools and train crop geneticists to use them. See photo and web page.

Jeff Askey, an engineer in agricultural and biosystems engineering, received the Professional and Scientific Research Award. Askey has made substantial contributions to the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department and the agricultural community. His leadership and drive have resulted in innovations in digital agriculture that enhance production quality and efficiency in the cotton industry. See photo and web page.

Michelle Soupir, associate professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, received the Diversity and Enhancement Award. Soupir led faculty training on micro-aggressions, harassment, diversity, sensitivity and inclusive teaching methods and strategies. She is committed to an innovative diversity program aimed at making the department and Iowa State a more welcoming community for underrepresented students. See photo and web page.

Professional and Scientific and Staff Awards

Kent Berns, superintendent for Iowa State research and demonstration farms, received the Professional and Scientific Excellence Award. Berns has managed the ISU Central Iowa Research Farms since 1999. The 2,000-acre research area is home to more than 77 Iowa State research field projects with 44 project leaders. Berns also works on conservation projects on the farms, such as prairie restoration, wetland conservation and buffer strip implementation to improve water quality. See photo and web page.

Omar de Kok-Mercado, a program coordinator in natural resource ecology and management, received the Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award. De Kok-Mercado coordinates and communicates the activities of the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) and Consortium for Cultivating Human and Naturally reGenerative Enterprises (C-CHANGE) teams. In his first year he increased media engagement and reorganized shared resources to increase awareness of the programs and improving access for farmers. See photo and web page.

Jeff Thorson, animal caretaker in animal science, received the Merit Award for Achievement and Service. Thorson has successfully supported research at the Beef Nutrition Research Center. Thorson manages the farm’s feed mill and his attention to detail ensures feed is made with precision and accuracy. Thorson’s diligence and support has maintained the integrity of the center’s research program for the past 25 years. See photo and web page.

Extension and Outreach Awards

Adam Janke, an assistant professor in natural resource ecology and management, received the Early Achievement in Extension and Outreach Award. Janke has developed educational programs focused on wildlife education and provided strong leadership to the Iowa Master Conservationist Program. His wildlife education and conservation extension collaboration efforts are recognized throughout Iowa and the region. See photo and web page.

Daren Mueller, associate professor in plant pathology and microbiology, received the Outstanding Extension Award. Mueller’s extension activities related to soybean disease and integrated pest management positively impact Iowans and national stakeholders. Leading by example, Mueller is a mentor to plant pathologists and extension personnel. He connects with stakeholders through traditional and innovative programming to communicate crop protection information. See photo and web page.

Garland Dahlke, associate scientist for the Iowa Beef Center, received the Outstanding Achievement in Extension and Outreach Award. Dahlke is a team member whose expertise supports national efforts in technology development for beef applications and other livestock species. He has worked on the Beef Ration and Nutrition Decision Software (BRANDS), the Feed Intake Monitoring System (FIMS), the ISU Feedlot Monitoring Program and the Estrus Synchronization Planner. See photo and web page.

Global Engagement Awards

Dirk Maier, a professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, received the Outstanding Achievement in International Agriculture Award. Maier is a leading expert in stored product protection and delivery of quality grains. His international activities have benefited Iowa agriculture and rural development. His work also has enhanced the international reputation of Iowa State as a leader in the fight against food waste and insecurity. Maier is a leading expert in stored product protection and delivery of quality grains. See photo and web page.

The Team Award goes to an interdisciplinary team dedicated to building the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Service Learning, School Garden Program in Uganda. For the past 14 years, the service-learning program has provided educational opportunities to more than 300 university students. Iowa State students live and work together in rural Uganda, alongside students from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The school garden program, which annually benefits more than 3,000 children, is centered on teaching agricultural skills to youth while contributing to a school lunch program and working with area small-landholder farmers. See photo and web page.

The Iowa State team includes Gail Nonnecke, University Professor in horticulture and Morrill Professor; Lee Burras, agronomy professor; Dorothy Masinde, associate teaching professor in global resource systems; Shelley Taylor, director of global programs; Richard Schultz, University Professor in natural resources ecology and management; Tom Brumm, associate professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering; Julie Blanchong, associate professor in natural resources ecology and management; Kevin Duerfeldt, assistant teaching professor in global resource systems; and Catherine Swoboda, assistant teaching professor in horticulture.

Contacts: 

Barb McBreen, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, 515-294-0707, barbmc@iastate.edu