Bjornstad receives Black Award for excellence in research

University Park, Pa. -- Ottar Bjornstad, professor of entomology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been chosen to receive the Alex and Jessie C. Black Award for Excellence in Research.

The honor, which includes a $1,000 cash award and a plaque, recognizes significant accomplishments in agricultural research at Penn State.

Bjornstad, who also holds faculty appointments in biology and statistics in the Eberly College of Science, is recognized as one of the world's foremost theoretical ecologists. His research focuses on population ecology and population dynamics of infectious diseases, insects and other organisms, with particular emphasis on mathematical and computational aspects.

As a result of Bjornstad's research, scientists have a better understanding of how disease organisms survive and spread among host populations and how infestations of invasive insect pests, such as gypsy moths, expand geographically over time.

Referred to by one colleague as "one of the best statistical ecologists of his generation," Bjornstad has established an international reputation in the area of spatial and temporal modeling of animal and disease populations, according the Gary Felton, head of the Penn State Department of Entomology.

"His work is generally focused on time series and spatial data with a recent focus on transportation networks, risk mapping and geographic dissemination of acute respiratory diseases such as measles, influenza and whooping cough," Felton said. "In addition to his basic research, he currently advises Medecins Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders] on optimizing their vaccination campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa."

Since arriving at Penn State in 2001, Bjornstad and his co-investigators have attracted almost $11 million in grants. Among his nearly 100 refereed journal articles, more than 45 have come during the last five years. He has published three papers in Science, five in Nature, four in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and seven in Ecology. "His penchant for publication in high-profile journals is astounding and attests to the cutting-edge nature of his work," said Felton.

Bjornstad's previous awards include the Early Career Award from Penn State's Environment and Natural Resources Institute, the Ecological Research Award from the Ecological Society of Japan and Penn State's Faculty Scholar Medal for outstanding achievement in the life and health sciences. Since 2004, he has been co-director of the university's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics.

He received a bachelor's degree in biology in 1991, master's degree in zoology in 1993 and doctorate in ecology in 1997 from the University of Oslo, Norway, and did postdoctoral research at the University of Oslo, the University of Cambridge, UK, and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Last Updated April 20, 2009