Guiltinan receives Black Award for excellence in research

March 26, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Mark Guiltinan, J. Franklin Styer Professor of Horticultural Botany in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is the recipient of the 2018 Alex and Jessie C. Black Award for Excellence in Research.

The honor, which includes a $5,000 cash stipend, recognizes a tenure-track faculty member in the college whose significant accomplishments include exceptional and original agricultural research conducted at Penn State.

He will receive the award during the Gamma Sigma Delta Celebration of Excellence to be held on Thursday, March 28, in 112 Forest Resources Building. The celebration begins with a reception in the atrium starting at 4:30 p.m.; the award ceremony begins at 5 p.m.

A plant molecular biologist, Guiltinan has served on Penn State's faculty for 27 years, during which time he has made numerous foundational contributions in his field and earned an exceptional reputation nationally and internationally. His contributions in research and scholarship rank him among the very best plant scientists in the world, according to Erin Connolly, professor and head of the Department of Plant Science.

“He is in high demand internationally for his expertise and has been very generous with colleagues in his field -- he spends considerable time traveling to developing countries to provide expertise and train students and scholars,” she said. “These efforts have served to amplify his research impact and bring significant attention to the plant sciences and agriculture at Penn State.”

Guiltinan’s research explores the molecular basis of plant development and applications of plant science to crop improvement. He has made major discoveries in areas such as gene regulation, starch biosynthesis, plant propagation and genetic engineering, plant genomics, and functional genomics.

Mark Guiltinan Black Award

Mark Guiltinan, J. Franklin Styer Professor of Horticultural Botany in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

IMAGE: Penn State

Serving as director of the Penn State Endowment for the Molecular Biology of Cacao, Guiltinan has made significant contributions to cacao research, which has led to important translational outcomes for researchers and growers worldwide.

Under Guiltinan's leadership, faculty and student researchers contributed to the sequencing of the entire cocoa genome; characterized a large number of genes involved in disease resistance and quality traits such as lipid and flavonoid biosynthesis; developed and published several innovative methods for the study of functional genomics in cacao; and developed a method -- somatic embryogenesis -- that enables the rapid propagation of elite cacao plants used in Indonesia to propagate more than 100 million plants.

His programs have gained international recognition, and he has hosted extended research exchange programs for visiting scientists from 12 countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Malaysia. By invitation of the U.S. ambassador to Colombia in 2015, Guiltinan became a member of the coordinating council of the Land Grant Universities Network for Colombia. He also is one of the founders of the Center for Innovation of Cacao, a private-public partnership operating in Peru.

During his career, Guiltinan has published 105 manuscripts in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals and has secured grants and gifts totaling more than $16 million for his work, including funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and industry sponsors. The largest of these awards was a $3.5 million grant from the NSF Plant Genome Program to study disease resistance in cacao.

Guiltinan holds a bachelor's degree in botany from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, and a doctorate in developmental and cell biology from the University of California, Irvine. After serving as a postdoctoral researcher at Texas A&M University, at Rhone Poulenc Agrochimie in France, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he joined the Penn State faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor, rising to the rank of full professor in 2001.

At Penn State, he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in plant biotechnology and physiology and has mentored numerous graduate and undergraduate students in independent studies in plant research.

The Alex and Jessie C. Black Award is a tribute to the life and career of the late Alex Black, who was a professor of animal nutrition and the associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Penn State, and his wife, the late Jessie Clements Black.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 26, 2019