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Scientists rate among top for productivity

WSU scientists conducting research on plants and animals are among the most productive in the nation, according to a survey published recently in the Chronicle for Higher Education. 

WSU plant scientists were ranked the fifth most productive in the United States. WSU’s zoology program ranked No.10. Approximately 7,300 doctoral programs around the country were evaluated in the survey.

“This honor truly recognizes the breadth and depth of our plant science and zoology programs,” said James Petersen, WSU vice president for research. “Ranging from basic research in plant molecular sciences through the field application of new discoveries, these teams benefit science, Washington agriculture, energy and human health.”
WSU plant scientists ranked second in the number of journal articles published per faculty member (only Berkeley ranked higher) and third in the percentage of faculty whose work was cited by another work.

Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, and Michael Griswold, dean of the WSU College of Sciences, cited several examples of work by plant science faculty at WSU that have had global impact:

Norman G. Lewis, professor and director of WSU’s interdisciplinary Institute for Biological Chemistry, focuses on lignins. While lignins help give plants and trees rigidity, they must be broken down or eliminated in order to make paper, fuel and other bioproducts.

• Professor John Browse researches the bioengineering of plants,­ such as soybeans, canola and flax,­ to produce healthy food oils as well as more sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels and petrochemicals.

Kulvinder Gill, professor and Vogel Chair for Wheat Breeding and Genetics, is working to manipulate the wheat genome for crop improvement.

• Professor Gerald Edwards works on the effects of environmental stress and global climate change on carbon acquisition and usage in photosynthesis of higher plants.

Mechthild Tegeder, associate professor, is interested in how peas, soybeans and other plants acquire, distribute and use nitrogen. One goal is to generate plant products of enhanced protein quality for human food.

Ranked 10th, WSU zoology is housed in the School of Biological Sciences.

“We are especially pleased to be recognized for our research productivity,” said Gary Thorgaard, director of the school, “given that our unit is also very active and successful in teaching and student advising.

“Our research and teaching efforts are closely linked,” he said. “Our faculty members have been very successful in obtaining support from the National Science Foundation, including major research equipment grants and grants for cooperative training and instructional projects.” 
The survey is based on results of the Faculty Scholarly Productivity index, a new, annual index of research programs.

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