Two faculty members in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Katrien Devos and Ignazy Misztal, were recently named Distinguished Research Professors during the University of Georgia's Honors Week celebration.
The title of Distinguished Research Professor is awarded to faculty who are internationally recognized for their original contributions to knowledge and whose work promises to foster continued creativity in their discipline. The Research Awards Program is sponsored by the University of Georgia Research Foundation (UGARF).
Katrien Devos, professor of plant genetics with joint appointments in the crop and soil sciences and plant biology departments, is internationally recognized for her studies on the structure, function and evolution of grass genomes, with a primary focus on cereals, bioenergy crops and halophytic turfgrasses.
Devos helped lead the development of the “crop circles” concept, which demonstrates relationships among different grass genomes at the genetic level. Her laboratory combines basic and applied research to understand the genetics and evolutionary biology of crops such as wheat, switchgrass, seashore paspalum and millets.
Devos also works with East African breeders to design more resilient and sustainable cereal varieties, such finger millet and pearl millet, which are important to food security in Africa and India.
She and her colleagues recently led the sequencing of both the finger millet genome and its main fungal pathogen, blast, and now are searching for genetic factors that could enhance finger millet’s resistance to blast.
Ignacy Misztal, professor of animal and dairy science, is one of the most prominent computational animal breeders in the world, driving commercial and research advances in livestock improvement. His work applies genetic evaluation methodologies and computational strategies to improve livestock production and sustainability.
Misztal invented a widely used, single-step method for genetic evaluation that combines genomic, phenotypic and pedigree information simultaneously. This cost-effective tool is considered the simplest method for large-scale, genomic livestock evaluations and has been adopted internationally by the industry.
He also developed one of the industry’s popular software suites for animal breeding, with both research and commercial applications. Misztal’s sponsors use the commercial application, but most of the software is available for free through the cloud and is used in at least 50 countries. His goal is to develop genetically superior animals through sophisticated modeling and analytics involving millions of performance records and pedigrees.