October 7, 2009

Three entomology professors in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture will receive honors during the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America in December in Indianapolis.

Professor Grayson Brown was elected vice president-elect for the entire professional society. Professor Reddy Palli was elected vice president-elect of the Integrative, Physiological, and Molecular Insects Systems Section, and Assistant Professor James Harwood will receive the Early Career Innovation Award.

"The elections of Grayson Brown and Reddy Palli to significant offices within the Entomological Society of America reflect the professional recognition by their colleagues," said John Obrycki, chair of the UK Department of Entomology. "These elections, in addition to the award to James Harwood, are indicators of the national prominence and leadership of the faculty in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky."

Brown's role requires a four-year commitment, during which time he will ascend through the leadership becoming president of the professional society in 2012. As president, he'll head an international delegation of entomologists and serve on the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.

"I'm honored to be elected. In my opinion, this is the highest honor a North American entomologist can receive," Brown said.

For many years, Brown has been a leader in the society for using cutting-edge technology to enhance communication among members, particularly using video and Internet conferencing at annual meetings to actively engage members from around the world who could not attend otherwise.

His nomination was endorsed by the society's North Central and Southeastern branches as well as the Structural, Veterinary and Public Health Systems Section. Entomologists in all fields and throughout the world voted in the election.

When he becomes president, Brown will be the fourth UK entomologist to serve in this position. Others to hold this position include Fred Knapp, Doug Dahlman and the late Bobby Pass.

In his leadership role, Brown said he hopes to continue to enhance the ability for entomologists to meet over the Internet and increase the society's interaction with Latin American societies to work to prevent international public health problems that result from insects.

Palli's leadership role is with one of the society's four professional sections. His position is a three-year commitment, and he'll be president of the section in 2012.

"I am honored to be elected by my peers for this position," Palli said.

Palli has long been an active contributor to his profession. The insect physiologist has published 94 journal articles, 16 book chapters and has three patents with others pending. He also serves on the editorial boards of five journals and has served on grant review panels of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Research Initiative. His current research focuses on hormonal regulation of gene expression in insects. 

As a longtime member of the society, Palli has organized several symposia at international conferences and the society's annual meeting and served on committees within the society. 

The award Harwood is receiving honors young entomologists who have demonstrated innovation with contributions to any area of specialization in the field and are within two to 10 years of receiving their last degree. Those working within private and public organizations are eligible. Harwood is only the second person to receive this award, which was first given last year.

Harwood's research involves using molecular technology, behavioral studies and field experiments to better understand interactions between predator and prey insects and to identify predators' roles in the biological control of pests in agriculture. He's also studying how alternative food sources for predators affect their ability to control pests and impact the function of the ecosystem. Farmers have used natural predators for years to sustainably control pests in fields.  When natural predators control pests, farmers can usually avoid or reduce the number of pesticide applications made to a field. Harwood's main area of focus is invertebrate food web biology with an emphasis on spider ecology. He uses molecular approaches to understand how biodiversity and alternative prey impact biological control. 

"It is a particular honor that the society has acknowledged the innovative approach I'm using to address questions in ecology and biological control," Harwood said.

The Entomological Society of America has more than 5,700 members worldwide and is the largest professional organization of entomologists in the world.

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