Ag Sciences faculty member named distinguished professor, Black Award winner

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Christina Grozinger, professor of entomology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named a Distinguished Professor by Penn State, and she also has been chosen to receive the college's 2016 Alex and Jessie C. Black Award for Excellence in Research.

The title of distinguished professor was established by the Office of the President to recognize a select group of professors with exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research and service.

"Dr. Grozinger has emerged as a leader in the global effort to understand what is happening to honeybees and other pollinators," said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "During her relatively young career, she has conducted groundbreaking research related to pollinator health and social behavior that has been highly influential in the field. She has served the University and her discipline exceptionally well, not the least in her leadership as director of the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research."

Grozinger's impressive record of extramural funding includes more than $11 million from multiple competitive programs from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation. In 2008, she was the recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation Early Career Award, and in 2013 she received the James I. Hambleton Memorial Award for research excellence in apiculture. Moreover, her students and postdoctoral scholars have received numerous highly competitive National Science Foundation and USDA fellowships.

A proven mentor of students, Grozinger has advised nine postdoctoral scholars and 13 graduate students, many of whom have gone on to careers as faculty members at major universities. "Her reputation as an outstanding mentor is evidenced by the large number of students who apply to our graduate program, specifically to work with her," said Gary Felton, professor and head of the Department of Entomology.

University Distinguished Professors must be acknowledged leaders in their fields of research or creative activity; must have demonstrated significant leadership in raising the standards of the University with respect to teaching, research or creative activity, and service; and must have demonstrated excellent teaching skills and contributed significantly to the education of students who subsequently have achieved recognition of excellence in their fields.

The Black Award, which includes a $3,000 cash stipend and a plaque, recognizes significant accomplishments in agricultural research at Penn State. Grozinger's research focuses on the mechanisms underlying social behavior and health in honeybees and related species.

Grozinger's studies on social behavior seek to reveal the mechanisms that regulate behavioral variation and plasticity in insect societies, in particular focusing on complex chemical communication systems. Her research on honeybee and bumble bee health examine how biotic and abiotic stressors impact the individual at the molecular, physiological and behavioral level, how these individual effects lead to colony-level changes, and how responses to these stressors can be mitigated by altering management strategies.

Grozinger and her team use a highly transdisciplinary approach encompassing genomics, epigenetics, physiology, neurobiology, behavior, chemical ecology and population genomics.

Since 2010, she has published 55 peer-reviewed papers (81 total), and given more than 40 invited seminar and symposium presentations. Her research is cited by other scholars with uncommonly high frequency, according to Felton.

"Dr. Grozinger seamlessly and powerfully integrates research, education, outreach and service related to the biology and health of honeybees and other pollinators," he said. "Her recent work using a sophisticated genomic tool to provide the first empirical proof of long-standing evolutionary theories related to kin selection has been particularly noteworthy."

Felton noted that the Grozinger lab also has made significant contributions to understanding honeybee health through a series of important studies on viruses, Nosema, mites, pesticides, immunity and nutrition. "Dr. Grozinger has expanded this work on other social insects to include fire ants, bumble bees and paper wasps. It is rare to see a faculty member combine excellence in conducting strongly theoretical work with more translational studies."

Grozinger received her bachelor's degree in chemistry and biology at McGill University in 1997. She received a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship for her graduate work in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, where she earned her master's and doctoral degrees in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

She was awarded a Beckman Institute Fellowship for her postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois. In 2004, she joined the faculty at North Carolina State University as an assistant professor of insect genomics. In 2008, she joined the Department of Entomology at Penn State and became the Director for the Center for Pollinator Research in 2009.

Last Updated April 18, 2016