2016 Technical Support Award of Excellence
Department: Crop and Soil Sciences
For every groundbreaking research publication and new crop variety produced at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, there is a small army of graduate and undergraduate laboratory labor laying the groundwork for discovery.
In Professor Wayne Parrott’s plant breeding laboratory, it’s Peter LaFayette’s job to make sure the army of seed collectors, pipetters and cell counters are all working effectively and are on the same page.
For the past 18 years, LaFayette has guided dozens of undergraduate and graduate research technicians in the Parrott Lab, teaching everything from basic laboratory manners to cutting-edge techniques for extracting, isolating and duplicating plant DNA. LaFayette has taught his students to take the work of research seriously, but to handle lab work with patience and a sense of humor.
“Most importantly, we learned how to approach research, which many students, unfortunately, do not experience,” his former students wrote in his nomination letter. “We believe his teaching style, one of subtle guidance with room for independent experimentation and failure, is what was responsible for us all developing confidence in our abilities and to learn and grow as people and scientists.”
In addition to being “a book of unwritten knowledge” for students, LaFayette has pioneered and perfected many research techniques that have given the Parrott Lab an advantage in funding and performing research, including novel techniques for cell culturing, gene copying and genome editing.
LaFayette moved to Athens, Georgia, in 1989 after graduating with his doctorate in plant physiology from the University of California, Davis.