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Departmental News

Check back regularly for news and photos from around our Department. Click here to visit our photo gallery and to download the February 2014 Newsletter  [Adobe PDF - 3.7mb].

Past Newsletters:

December 2012 Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 1.08mb]

January 2012 Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 824kb].

Fall 2010 Departmental Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 1.5mb]

Spring 2009 Departmental Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 18mb]

Fall 2009 Departmental Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 1.2 mb].

Spring 2009 Departmental Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 6.03 mb].

2006 Departmental Newsletter [Adobe PDF - 933 kb]

Warr Wins APS Travel Award

Michelle Warr, an undergraduate student conducting research with Dr. Raymond Schneider in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, won the American Phytopathological Society (APS) Raymond G. Grogan Student Traval Award. This highly competitive award was given to Ms. Warr in recognition of her achievements in plant pathology research. The award will be used for travel expenses to the national APS meeting in Providence, RI, this coming August where Ms. Warr will present her research findings entitled Genetic Relationships among Subpopulations of Competitive Nonpathogenic Strains of Fusarium oxysporum and F. oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici.

Aime elected Fellow of the Mycological Society of America

M. Catherine Aime was selected as a 2012 Fellow of the Mycological Society of America (MSA).  Aime is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology with an internationally recognized program in systematic mycology.  MSA Fellows are outstanding mycologists selected on the bases of an outstanding record of mycological research, successful teaching in mycology, and significant service to the MSA.  Aime has published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers in the last ten years and served a three-year term as Secretary of the MSA and is currently an Associate Editor of the Society’s journal, Mycologia.  Aime is major advisor to six graduate students and serves on the graduate committee of 15 students at LSU, Humboldt University, University of Florida, and University of Southern Mississippi. She joins 36 previously awarded preeminent mycologists as Fellow of the MSA.

Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology Student wins two Prestigious Travel Awards

Rachel Koch, a PhD student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, recently won two highly competitive student grants.  The first was the Forest Fungal Ecology grant from the Mycological Society of America.  This award is given to one student each year and supports ecological studies of fungal interactions in old growth forests.  The second is a student grant from the Explorers Club.  The Explorers Club is a professional society that focuses on linking field research and exploration. This award supports doctoral students pursuing field research in remote locations.  With these awards, Rachel will be able to cover the cost of her research trip to the remote forests of the Guiana Shield.  During her research trip and for her dissertation, she will be studying a novel fungal/insect interaction.  A newly described fungus that is endemic to the Guiana Shield was found to have termites feeding on it—an occurrence thought not to exist outside of Africa.  Rachel is advised by Dr. Catherine Aime  and is finishing her first year at LSU.

Rush wins Fulbright Award


Tomas Rush, a graduate student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. The Fulbright Scholarship is a prestigious and competitive award sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Fulbright program is the largest U.S. international exchange program, established to increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries.  Tomas’ research will focus on the use of fungal biological control agents against the pathogen Burkholderia glumae on rice panicles at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand from July 2012-March 2013 under the direction of LSU Plant Pathology alum, Dr. Pongtharin Lotrakul.  Tomas will complete his Master’s degree in May 2012 under the direction of Drs. Raymond Schneider and Cathie Aime.

Felix Francis Jake FountainThe 89th annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society-Southern Division was held 5-6 February 2012 in Birmingham, AL. During this meeting, a graduate student paper competition was held, and a record number of graduate students, 36, from nine universities competed.  Felix Francis, an M. S. candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology under the supervision of Dr. Jong Ham, won first place for his presentation entitled “Comparative genomic analyses of the rice pathogenic Burkholderia glumae strains reveals plasticity among the genomes”, while Jake Fountain, an M. S. candidate in the Department under the supervision of Dr. Zhi-Yuan Chen, won second place for his presentation entitled “Identification and analysis of differentially expressed maize WRKY transcription factors in response to Aspergillus flavus colonization of resistant and susceptible germplasm”.

Ashok Chanda, Ph. D. candidate, in the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology at Louisiana State University and the LSU AgCenter, recently won the prestigious C. W. Edgerton Award.  He was nominated by his co-advisors, Drs. Z. Y. Chen and R. W. Schneider.  He won this award for his outstanding academic and professional achievements, especially his significant contributions toward our understanding of the causal agent of Cercospora leaf blight of soybeans, Cercospora kikuchii, with regard to time of infection, growth and development of the pathogen during the crop season, and the molecular mechanism underlying cercosporin biosynthesis.

Felix Francis, M.S. student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University, received two competitive NSF funded travel fellowships. The first fellowship of $1000.00 was to attend a workshop “High Performance Computing Application of R and Other Codes for Biological Research”, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) in Knoxville, TN. The second fellowship of $750.00 was to participate in the “Oomycete Bioinformatics Training Workshop” at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Francis was also awarded a Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology Graduate Student Association Scholarship for the 2010-2011 school year to attend the Oomycete Bioinformatics Training Workshop. He is studying comparative genomics and transcriptome analysis of Burkholderia glumae strains that cause bacterial panicle blight (BPB) of rice, under the supervision of Dr. Jong Hyun Ham.

Chanda Recognized for Publication

The 88th annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society-Southern Division was held 6-7 February 2011in Corpus Christi, TX. During this meeting, a graduate student paper competition was held, and Ashok Chanda, a Ph.D. candidate under the supervision of Dr. Zhi-Yuan Chen, won third place for his presentation entitled “The roles of light-induced proteins in the biosynthesis of cercosporin by Cercospora kikuchii”.

Aime Receives Prestigious Fellow of The Linnean Society

Dr. M. Cathie Aime, Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, was elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society.  Dr. Aime is one of the only experts on systematics of rust fungi in the world and also an expert on the biodiversity of neotropical basidiomycetes.  She has published closed to 50 new species and a new genus.

The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier and oldest active society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history. The society aims to promote the study of all aspects of the biological sciences, with particular emphasis on evolution, taxonomy, biodiversity and sustainability.

The Linnean Society was founded in 1788, taking its name from the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus. Individual membership categories are: Student member, Associate member and full Fellow. All forms of membership require nomination by at least two Fellows and are subject to election. Fellows use the designation FLS after their names

Introduction to Nematodes: A New Multimedia Presentation IS Released

Edward McGawleyCharles OverstreetDrs. E. C. McGawley, C. Overstreet, Dept. of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, and M. J. Pontif, Sugarcane Research Station, recently published the first ever multimedia presentation entitled “Introduction to Nematodes”.  This presentation contains 481 photographs, 155 illustrations, 17 tables and 14 videos.  The presentation also is accompanied by a 13 page syllabus and an index of the 18 sections (General, History, Morphology, Body Systems, Symptoms, Loss Estimates, Movement & Dissemination, Sampling, Extraction, Population Dynamics, Thresholds, Management, Taxonomy, Parasitism, Key for Identification, Highlighted Genera, Disease Complexes and Entomogenous Nematodes).  It may be formatted as a Quicktime movie and therefore is compatible with both Macintosh and PC operating systems.    A FREE download is available courtesy of the websites of the Organization of Nematologists of Tropical America and the Society of Nematologists.

Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology Graduate Students Win Awards:

The Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association (LACA) awarded two $2,000 scholarships to LSU AgCenter Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology doctoral students during the organization’s 2010 annual conference.  The two Ph.D. candidates, Mr. Trey Price, who studies under Dr. Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, and Ms. Rebecca Melanson, working with Dr. Jong Hyun Ham, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, tied for the scholarship.

Ms. Pei Pei Han (M.S. student with Dr. Z. Y. Chen) was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Tom W. Dutton Scholarship Award 2009-2010 for demonstrating a commitment to community service, and who have made extraordinary efforts to enhance their leadership skills or to make their organization a success.


Ms. Nicole Ward (Ph.D. student with Dr. Ray Schneider) received 1st place in the competitive student presentation competition at the Southern Soybean Disease Workers Annual Meeting, Pensacola, FL, held on March 10 & 11 for her work on “Field Evaluations of Simplicillium lanosoniveum as a Biological Control Agent for Phakopsora pachyrhizi”.  In addition, she recently received the competitive Larry Wallace Moore and John F. Schafer Student Travel Award for the APS Annual Meeting to be held in Nashville, TN, August 2010.

Rush wins Sigma Xi and Mycological Mentor Travel Awards.

Mr. Tomas Rush, Master’s student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology (Co-Advisors, Drs. Cathie Aime and Ray Schneider) won two highly competitive and prestigious awards.  He was awarded a Sigma Xi Research Grant-in-Aid ($400) for validating the ITS locus for diagnostic assays of Phakopsora pachyrhizi, and a Mentor Travel Award from the Mycological Society of America, MSA,  ($500) for “Placement of the yeast genus Moniliella in the Ustilaginomycotina and description of a new species” that will be presented at the National MSA Meetings June 2010 in Lexington, KY. 

PPCP Graduate Assistant Honored by Southern Division of the APS

The 88th annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society-Southern Division was held 6-7 February 2011in Corpus Christi, TX. During this meeting, a graduate student paper competition was held, and Ashok Chanda, a Ph.D. candidate under the supervision of Dr. Zhi-Yuan Chen and Dr. Raymond Schneider, won third place for his presentation entitled “The roles of light-induced proteins in the biosynthesis of cercosporin by Cercospora kikuchii”. Congratulations to Ashok!

Two PPCP Faculty Honored by the Southern Division of the APS

Dr. Chris ClarkRaymond SchneiderSouthern Division of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) meeting was held Feb. 7-8, 2010, in conjunction with annual SAAS (Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists) meeting at the Wyndham Resort Hotel in Orlando, FL. During this meeting, Dr. Chris Clark was named the Outstanding Plant Pathologist for 2010 by his peers in the Southern Division of the APS, and Dr. Ray Schneider was elected Vice President of the Southern Division for 2010-11. He will then also serve as President Elect for 2011-12, President for 2012-13 and Past President for 2013-14. Congratulations to Dr. Clark and Dr. Schneider for being honored by their peers.

Ward Receives Sigma Xi Grant

(4/29/2009) Nicole Ward, PhD student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, has received a competitive grant-in-aid from the scientific research society - Sigma Xi. This award comes with a certificate and $500.00 which will be used to support her current research. She was recognized for winning this competition at the Sigma Xi Spring Banquet, 22 April. Ms. Ward is studying the biocontrol of Asian Soybean Rust under the supervision of Dr. Raymond W. Schneider.

Cohn Receives College of Agriculture Award

(4/28/2009) Marc A. Cohn, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, has received this year's Sedberry Graduate Teaching Award from the LSU College of Agriculture. This award recognizes Cohn's outstanding record of excellence and achievement in teaching and mentoring of graduate students. He will be recognized at the College Honors Convocation to be scheduled Fall 2009 and at the Dean's Teaching Conference in January 2010.

In July 2007, Dr. Milton Rush was awarded the "F. Avalon Daggett Professorship in Rice Research". This Professorship includes a $5,000/year stipend. Congratulations to Dr. Rush for this important achievement.

Former Student Named Director of Forest Health Cooperative at Auburn University

Dr. Lori G. Eckhardt, a former student of Dr. J. P. Jones, Professor Emeritus, has been names as the Director of the new Forest Health Cooperative of Auburn University and is in the process of hiring employees to cover the positions in the Coop.  Dr. Eckhardt currently has 3 graduate students and 3 more will be starting in January on projects funded by the Coop.  She is also President of the Auburn University chapter of Sigma Xi.  Traveling between projects in Nicaragua and South Africa and she has  been invited to New Zealand to give a talk at a Forest Biosecurity Conference. 

EIU distinguished alumnus researches corn-based carinogenic fungi


BATON ROUGE, La. — This year’s class of Eastern Illinois University Distinguished Alumni includes a man who does battle with a cancer-causing fungus.

Kenneth Damann, class of 1966, is a Louisiana State University professor and researcher in the areas of plant pathology and crop physiology whose work focuses on a type of fungi that preys on corn and produces a highly carcinogenic toxin that has been linked to liver cancer.

A Charleston native, Damann will be recognized Saturday during the EIU Alumni Association awards dinner as part of this weekend’s Homecoming festivities.

“I’m very pleased” with the award, Damann said from his cell phone while en route to Charleston Thursday.

“I remember fondly my years in Charleston,” he also said, noting that his father, the late Kenneth Damann Sr., was head of the botany department at EIU for many years.

“That’s where I got an interest in (this) area,” Damann said.

A 1962 graduate of Charleston High School, Damann earned a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas in 1968 and a doctorate from Michigan State University in 1974. That same year, he joined the faculty at LSU.

Damann spends most of his time researching fungi that make what are called aflatoxins — one of the most carcinogenic of all naturally occurring substances.

These fungi are known to affect corn, cotton seed, peanuts and tree nuts, Damann said. While crops in the Midwest are attacked on rare occasion, such fungi are more commonly seen in corn grown in the Gulf South, from Texas to North Carolina, said Damann.

The Food and Drug Administration limits the presence of this fungus to 20 parts per billion, he said.

“So we’re interested in trying to control this organism in the field,” said Damann.

To that end, his team is experimenting with another naturally occurring fungus that does not make aflatoxins. If applied to a field, these benign fungi “compete with (the) toxigenic forms and suppress them” both in the soil and on the plants themselves, Damann said.

“It appears to be an effective strategy, and we’re trying to commercialize it.”

His work is supported by the Louisiana Soybean and Grain Research and Promotion Board, and Damann’s team also has partnered with researchers in Thailand.

He said the key concept is “biological control” — inhibiting toxigenic forms of fungi.

In addition to his recognition this weekend as one of the latest Distinguished Alumni, Damann is slated to speak with EIU undergraduate students about his work at ISU.

“I’m interested in trying to establish a pipeline of interested students to work in plant pathology,” he said.

Damann and his wife, Catherine, live near the ISU campus in Baton Rouge. They have four children and three grandchildren.

Contact Nathaniel West at or 238-6860.

Schneider named organizer and chair of National Soybean Rust Symposium

Raymond W. Schneider was named the organizer and chair of the National Soybean Rust Symposium, sponsored by the American Phytopathological Society, held in Louisville, KY, December 12-14, 2007. The symposium attracted more than 250 participants from the U.S., Central and South America, and other countries. The symposium examined the disease from virtually every angle. In addition to opportunities to network and explore new areas of investigation, participants appreciated and actively engaged in important presentations, posters and discussions, and the symposium received rave reviews.

Overstreet Receives Bayer CropScience International Award

Dr. Charles Overstreet receiving the Bayer CropScience Award

Charles Overstreet, AgCenter nematologist, is the recipient of the Bayer CropScience Award presented by the Organization of Nematologist of Tropical America (ONTA) during their 39th annual meeting in Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina, Oct. 28–Nov. 2. Overstreet was cited for his outstanding research work in applied nematology, in particular the management of the reniform and other nematodes in cotton and other crops grown in Louisiana and for his service to Latin America agriculture.

ONTA’s focus is the Latin American area including the southern United States and Central and South America. Membership includes scientists from these areas as well as much of Europe who have interests in Latin America. Overstreet is involved with a number of national and international organizations that work with nematode problems on plants, serving on various committees, has held several officer positions within the Louisiana Plant Protection Association, and serves as an editorial reviewer for three journals. He is currently the chairman of the ONTA Foundation.

James Chappell was the recipient of the 2007 C.W. Edgerton Award in Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, and received a best graduate student paper award at the 2007 Crop Science Society of America annual meetings in New Orleans. Mr. Chappell has accepted a postdoctoral position at the Harvard Medical School, beginning in mid-2008. His research will focus on diabetes-induced oxidative stress in the laboratory of Dr. Mary Loeken. Mr. Chappell has completed his doctoral research concerning oxidative stress and smooth cordgrass seed death under the direction of Dr. Marc Cohn.

James Chappell (left) receives award from Dr. Dalton Gossett, Chair of the ASPB-Southern (right). Dr. Crispin Taylor, Executive Director, ASPB applauds in the background.
Chappell Receives Award for Best Graduate Student Paper

James Chappell (left), senior graduate student from the Cohn lab, receives his award for the Best Graduate Student Paper at the American Society of Plant Biologists - Southern Division annual meeting, held at Dauphin Island, AL in March 2007. Mr. Chappell presented results of his research about the role of oxidative stress in the death of recalcitrant Spartina seeds.

Dr. M. A. Cohn (left) and James Chappell (right)
Dr. M. A. Cohn congratulates James on his award.

CSSA President Steve Fales (left) of Iowa State University and Dr. Cohn (right) at the award ceremony in Indianapolis.

Cohn Receives CSSA Seed Science Award

Dr. M.A. Cohn was the recipient of the 2006 Seed Science Award of the Crop Science Society of America. The award is presented in recognition of distinctive service to the development and utilization of quality seeds in agriculture. Cohn received the award at the CSSA annual meeting in November 2006.

Dr. Peter Toorop, Seed Conservation Unit, Royal Botanic Gardens, UK (left), Dr. Norman Pammenter, Meeting Co-organizer, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (center) and James Chappell (right) at the 2007 Desiccation Workshop.

Chappell Presents Invited Talk in South Africa

Mr. James Chappell, senior Ph.D. student in the Cohn lab, presented results of his research at the 5th International Workshop on Desiccation Tolerance and Sensitivity of Seeds and Vegetative Plant Tissues (DesWorks) in Drakensberg, South Africa in January of 2007.

Dr. Gerard Berggren, Department Head (left), Charalambos Kokkinos (center), and Dr. Chris Clark, Kokkino's Major Professor (right).

Kokkinos Presented 2005 Edgerton Award

Charalambos Kokkinos, center, was presented the 2005 C. W. Edgerton Award, which is given to the most outstanding student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology selected by the faculty. A native of Cyprus, Kokkinos has recently completed his final examination/dissertation defense and will graduate with a Ph.D. in May. He completed his graduate studies under the direction of Christopher A. Clark, at right. Gerard Berggren, at left, is department head. (3/20/06)


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Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology
302 Life Science Building
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803 
(225) 578-1464

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