Entomology Faculty Member, Grad Student Honored During Ceremony

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – With the fall semester underway  the College held its ceremony for COALS awards and faculty and students in Department of Entomology received recognition.

Professor Dr. Patricia Pietrantonio and Ph.D. student Suhas Vyavhare were honored in front of their colleagues and peers during an annual awards ceremony for faculty, staff and students on Thursday at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ awards ceremony at the AgriLife Center.

Pietrantonio received the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Faculty Mentoring.  A seventeen year veteran faculty member with the Department, Pietrantonio was the second female faculty member the Department had hired at that time. Pietrantonio received the award for her outstanding work over the years as a  mentor for many faculty, graduate and undergraduate student she has worked with during her career.

She has been involved in various activities supporting diversity and mentoring, including the National Science Foundation-funded ADVANCE subcommittee for Women of Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), in which she served as a mentor for a minority female faculty member in the above fields. She has also been invited several times by the Dean of Faculty to provide orientation talks to all newly appointed Department Heads and deans on issues facing minority faculty mentoring and share her experiences.

“To be chosen for such an important award speaks to her commitment to promote women in STEM fields and educate administrators about the unique challenges that women and underrepresented minorities face in academia,” Entomology Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale said.

Several of her colleagues stated that Pietrantonio has helped them grow in their careers and been a positive influence to them, including Dr. Keyan Zhu-Salzman, Dr. Albert Mulenga and Dr. Cecilia Tamborindeguy. She also has positively influenced several of her students as well, including success stories from several of her graduate students that have gone to work at multi-national corporations such as Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto, as well as a faculty position at a university in Taiwan.

Dr. Pietrantonio is an exemplary role model for female faculty and graduate students. The Department of Entomology has historically been dominated by male faculty, Salzman said.  As the first Hispanic female faculty member, Dr. Pietrantonio has made the most significant contributions in changing the work environment in this Department, which has greatly benefited the female faculty recruited later,” Zhu-Salzman said.  “Her energy and passion has influenced women around her, not only the faculty but the students and postdocs in her classes and in her lab. After training in her lab, many of them are very successful in academia and in their research field, which in turn positively reflected upon the Department, AgriLife and TAMU.”

Vyavhare, who is co-advised by Dr. Raul Medina in College Station and Dr. M.O. Way in Beaumont, received the Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Graduate Research.  Vyavhare’s research interest focuses on the red-banded stinkbug.  He is relating infestations of the insect to damage of soybeans at specific growth stages through various studies. He is also correlating the densities of stinkbugs in the field with sweep net counts and sweep net surveys to determine relative abundance of the insects throughout soybean producing areas in the Texas Upper Gulf Coast, as well as evaluating degrees of insecticide resistance in the pest.

The results of Vyavhare’s research will provide valuable information including revised action threshold for the stinkbugs, which will help producers to fine-tune decision making on proper use of management tactics.

Vyavhare also is involved in several organizations, including the Entomology Graduate Student Organization, the Graduate Teaching Academy and the Indian Graduate Students Organization, as well as the Entomological Society of America.

He also earned the National Excellence in Leadership Award by the National Society of Leadership and Success in 2010, placed first for his poster presentation, and an outstanding participant  in the Linnaean games competition at the Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America.  Vyavhare and other members of the Linnaean team will represent Texas A&M at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America to be held this November in Austin, TX.

“Suhas is a Ph.D. student with a remarkable work ethic,” Medina said. “He is  mature, personable and dedicated to his research.”

Way was proud of Vyavhare and said his dedication and hard work will definitely benefit everyone, including growers and integrated pest management.

“I consider Suhas my best student. He is bright, hardworking and cooperative, Way said. “I believe Suhas will become a top-notch scientist helping develop and implement integrated pest management (IPM) programs for future global food production so vital for the sustainability/preservation of a stable, healthy world community.”

Texas A&M Agriculture and Life Sciences Vice Chancellor and Dean Dr. Mark Hussey was very proud of this year’s honorees.

“One of my goals is to recognize and reward excellence in our faculty, staff and students. Together, your dedication fulfills the land-grant mission and makes us one of the leading colleges not just at Texas A&M but around the world,” Hussey said.

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