Michael Strand, an internationally recognized University of Georgia entomologist whose insights into host-parasite interactions have important implications for agriculture and human health, has been named a Regents Professor, effective July 1.
Regents Professorships are awarded by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to distinguished faculty whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized both nationally and internationally as innovative and pace setting. The professorship, which includes a $10,000 salary increase, is granted for an initial period of three years and may be renewed. No more than one such award may be given at UGA in any year.
“Dr. Strand excels as an educator and as a researcher,” said Provost Jere Morehead, whose office oversees the review process for nominations for the award. “He has enhanced the university’s curriculum, is a respected mentor to young scientists and is widely regarded as one of the world’s top researchers in his field. He is without a doubt a worthy recipient of this honor.”
Strand came to the university in 2001. He holds an appointment in the entomology department in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and an affiliated appointment in the genetics department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. His work as principal or co-principal investigator has generated more than $23 million in competitive extramural funding and has been published in the world’s most selective research journals, including Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Strand’s research has been cited at a level that places him in the top 1 percent of cited entomologists and the top 5 percent for biology and biochemistry. He has delivered invited seminars and symposia in nearly every department of entomology in the United States, numerous universities in Europe, Asia and Australia, and many international meetings.
“He has been a prolific researcher since his graduate studies and at every step of his career he has contributed enormously to our understanding of biological questions he studied,” wrote Alexander Raikhel, Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Riverside in his nominating letter. “I believe that he has established himself as one of the most creative and imaginative researchers in the field as documented by the superior quality of his publications, some of which are seminal.”
Strand conceived and wrote a recent revision of the department of entomology’s curriculum that has been credited with enhancing the educational experience of students on the Athens campus as well as at the Griffin and Tifton campuses. He teaches undergraduate survey courses and has trained more than 50 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have gone on to secure prominent positions in government, academia and industry.
“Dr. Strand brings the same level of dedication, creativity and ingenuity to teaching as he does to his research,” wrote College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean J. Scott Angle and several colleagues. “As a broadly educated life scientist, his interdisciplinary knowledge and appreciation is far more diverse than most faculty members, and this is directly reflected in his teaching.”
His opinions and expertise are consistently sought, and he has served on editorial boards of several journals and on funding review panels for the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as for funding agencies in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Israel and Indonesia, among other nations. His university service includes appointments on several committees related to the research mission of the institution, including the advisory committee for the Office of the Vice President for Research and a campus-wide research task force. He also is a member of the university’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and Faculty of Infectious Diseases.
Host-parasite interactions are a crucial area of interest for agriculture as well as medicine because of the role that parasites play in controlling insect populations and the importance of insects as vectors for human diseases. Strand’s research has identified the genes that allow parasites to prey on agriculturally important pests, and that knowledge has been used to search for more effective biopesticides and has improved the use of parasites in biological control programs. His work has revealed mechanisms that allow the immune systems of insects to fight off parasites and could play a role in efforts to disrupt the transmission of malaria and other insect-borne diseases.
“The remarkable thing about Mike’s past work is that, while based upon parasitic wasps, it stretches across several disciplines from ecology to molecular biology,” noted John H. Law, Regents Professor Emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Arizona.
Strand is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Entomological Society of America. He is the recipient of the Entomological Society of America’s highest award in physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology and has also received the Brooks Award, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ highest recognition for research. In 2006, he was named Distinguished Research Professor.
“His research has become a benchmark in parasitoid biology today,” said Andrew Austin, deputy director of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity at the University of Adelaide. “On a personal note, Mike is one of the most friendly, amenable people I know—he is supremely helpful to colleagues and students, and he always seems to have time for the people around him.”
(Sam Fahmy is director of public relations for the University of Georgia's Office of the Senior Vice-president for Academic Affairs and Provost.)