Interdisciplinary lecture cultivates collaboration, leadership in plant health

Matt Black
December 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences held its inaugural Eva J. Pell Interdisciplinary Lecture on Plant Health on Dec. 9. The topic for this year’s lecture — “Where do Abiotic and Biotic Stress Overlap?” — focused on research that could mitigate the impacts of climate change on abiotic and biotic stress in plants.

Created in honor of Professor Emerita Eva J. Pell, the lecture series focuses on interdisciplinary topics concerning plant health. Pell served as the senior vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School at Penn State, as a professor in the former Department of Plant Pathology, and as the undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian Institution.

Pell continues her support of science with “ResQ and the Baby Orangutan,” her first children’s book in a series that discusses the importance of conservation of endangered species.

Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State, opened the lecture to a standing-room only crowd. Weiss reviewed the contributions Pell has made to Penn State, the Smithsonian Institution and the scientific community.

Julia Bailey-Serres, director of the Center for Plant Cell Biology and distinguished professor of genetics at the University of California, Riverside, and a National Academy of Science member, presented this year’s lecture titled, “Pathways to Enhancing Sustainable Crop Production in an Unpredictable Climate.”

Eva Pell

Julia Bailey-Serres, director of the Center for Plant Cell Biology and distinguished professor of genetics at University of California, Riverside, and National Academy of Science member, left, and Eva J. Pell, former senior vice president for research, dean of The Graduate School and professor emerita in the Department of Plant Pathology at Penn State, and former undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian Institution, pose for a photo at the 2019 Eva J. Pell Interdisciplinary Lecture on Plant Health. 

IMAGE: Carolee Bull

Following Bailey-Serres’ presentation, a panel discussion featured Penn State faculty members Francesco Di Gioia, assistant professor of vegetable crop science; Jonathan Lynch, distinguished professor of plant nutrition; and Sarah Assmann, Waller Professor of Biology. The panel provided students and faculty an opportunity to engage in discussion with Bailey-Serres and the panelists.

A roundtable discussion with Bailey-Serres and Penn State faculty concluded the event with anticipation of future collaborative projects and national leadership in plant biology.

“We developed this series to embrace Eva’s goal of fostering transdisciplinary research,” said Carolee Bull, head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology. “With this series we are working with our colleagues across the University to provide a platform for students, staff and faculty to explore the broad scientific disciplines impacting plant health.”

The launch of the lecture series comes during the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's International Year of Plant Health.

Suggestions for next year’s Eva J. Pell Interdisciplinary Lecture on Plant Health can be submitted online through Jan. 20, 2020.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 13, 2020