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Marty Dickman named AAAS Fellow

COLLEGE STATION From his office on the Texas A&M University campus, Dr. Marty Dickman's eyes twinkle when he talks about his work.

"The pursuit of scientific excellence that's what's fun," Dickman said. "My goal is not to win awards. The whole idea is to understand what the problems are, how things work and then try to implement solutions that help people."

Dickman paused briefly and with gratitude recently to reflect on his being named a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and then jumped back to his own research and that of other scientists at the Institute of Plant Genomics and Biotechnology where he serves as director.

The award, which cites Dickman's "excellence in research in the genetics and molecular biology of fungal-plant interactions," will be presented Feb. 19 at the AAAS Fellow Forum in Washington, D.C. The AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society.

Dickman joined Texas A&M's plant pathology and microbiology department as the Christine Richardson Professor of Agriculture in January 2006. At that time, he also became head of the institute, commonly referred to as the Borlaug Center.

As his leadership at the center began, Dickman also came to know the man for which it is named Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution. Those encounters, which continued until Borlaug died in 2009, remain the standard for Dickman's research and his guidance for other scientists at the institute.

"There is no better legacy than that of Norman Borlaug as a model," Dickman said. He cited one of his studies research on bananas that is yielding positive results for people.

Dickman's research program is focused primarily on fundamental studies in fungal diseases of plants. The overall goals of his studies are understanding the mechanisms that regulate programmed cell death and implementing intervention or alternative strategies to generate transgenic plants with novel mechanisms of pathogen resistance.

Bananas, for example, have been a target for that research because they are a staple food in several countries, he said.

"Banana is used in everything from bread to beer. As commercial bananas do not seed, breeding programs are generally ineffective. When diseases occur, starvation of the people dependent on them is likely."

Dickman previously was the Charles Bessey Professor at the University of Nebraska and had done post-doctoral research in Washington State University. A native of Long Island, N.Y., Dickman earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Hawaii.

He is a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and has served the group as chair of the Biochemistry, Physiology, and Molecular Biology Committee and chair of the Scientific Program Board. He currently is senior editor for APS PRESS and a senior editor for Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology.

Dickman has been honored as Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Hawaii and received the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Junior Faculty honor.


Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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