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Plant Pathologist Receives Award


UC Riverside Plant Pathologist Receives Major Award

Howard Judelson’s Research Into Potato Famine Fungus May Have Current Applications

(August 2, 2004)

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Howard Judelson

Howard Judelson

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.eduHoward Judelson, a University of California, Riverside, professor of plant pathology, received one of the top awards in his field, the 2004 Ruth Allen Award from the American Phytopathological Society on Sunday, Aug. 1. The award was presented during the society’s annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

Ruth Allen Award recipients have made an outstanding, innovative contribution to research that has changed, or has the potential to change the direction of research in any aspect of plant pathology, according to the society. Recipients of the Ruth Allen Award receive a certificate and a cash prize from a fund established by Allen’s heirs.

The award is named for Ruth Allen, a pioneering plant pathologist who taught at Wellesley College in Massachusetts from 1910 to 1914, and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the cytology of rust fungi. Rust fungi outbreaks cause some of the most important cereal diseases and have devastated economies dependent on coffee, apple and pine trees. Allen provided the most detailed understanding of the development of the rust fungi on host plants in a series of papers published in the 1920s.

Judelson received the award for his research on the molecular genetics of Phytophthora, a group of fungus-like microorganisms. These organisms cause devastating diseases on hundreds of host plants and are arguably the most significant group of plant pathogens. Judelson primarily studies Phytophthora infestans, which caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and remains a major problem in potato production. Notable related species include the cause of Sudden Oak Death in central and northern California, and the pathogen causing black pod of cacao, which is a very serious threat to chocolate production.

Judelson's work has involved developing methods for the genetic and molecular analysis of Phytophthora, and identifying factors important in the formation and germination of its spores. Since most disease outbreaks are initiated by spores, this research should ultimately lead to effective ways for blocking disease, for example by using agents that interfere with the function of genes or proteins required for normal spore behavior.

The research is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, and the UC Discovery Grant program.

Judelson joins two previous members of the Plant Pathology department as recipients of the Ruth Allen award, Noel Keen (1995) and Salomon Bartnicki-Garcia (1983).

Judelson received his B.S. in biochemistry from Cornell University in 1980 and his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin in 1985. Seeking experience in plant pathology, he became a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Richard Michelmore at the University of California-Davis. He then worked as an assistant geneticist in the Department of Vegetable Crops and in the Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance Against Pathogens at University of California, Davis until 1994 when he joined the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Riverside as an assistant professor.

The American Phytopathological Society is an international scientific organization that promotes the study of plant diseases and their control through publications, meetings, symposia, workshops, and the World Wide Web.
The society advances modern concepts in plant health management in agricultural, urban and forest settings. The Society was founded in 1908 and has grown from 130 charter members to nearly 5,000 plant pathologists and scientists worldwide.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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