Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
July 21, 2011
DuPont has awarded $1.3 million to the 2011 class of DuPont Young Professors representing 11 U.S. universities and six from universities across the world. The field of 18 honored includes University of Tennessee Associate Professor and UT AgResearch Scientist Dr. Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the UT Institute of Agriculture. This marks the 43rd class of DuPont Young Professors, sponsored globally by the DuPont Fellows Forum, a group representing the top scientists from throughout the company. Since the inception of the award, some 548 young professors from the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, Canada and Africa have received nearly $48 million in grants.
The DuPont Young Professor program, which began in 1967, is designed to provide start-up assistance to promising young and untenured research faculty working in areas of interest to DuPont's long-term business. Research by the class of 2011 Young Professors centers on solar energy, biomolecular sciences, polymer science, nanotechnology, entomology, chemistry, chemical engineering, statistics, animal biology and life sciences.
Each young professor will receive $75,000 in three annual grants of $25,000, or its equivalent in relevant currency. The grants may be used to obtain matching funds through the National Science Foundation or other organizations.
At UT, Dr. Jurat-Fuentes and his lab team study the mode of action of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins and the mechanisms through which insects develop resistance to them. These toxins are used in biopesticidal products or expressed in transgenic “Bt crops” for efficient and environment-friendly insect pest control. The adoption of Bt crop technology has greatly increased over time and continues to grow in the U.S. and other countries, highlighting the importance of Dr. Jurat-Fuentes’ research to prevent insect resistance and preserve the utility of this technology. In addition, his research on the insect gut physiology has the potential to make pesticides more effective, allowing their usage to be reduced, and may also have future applications in helping to limit the prevalence of serious insect-borne diseases. Funding from the DuPont award will allow Dr. Jurat-Fuentes to advance his work on resistance mechanisms to transgenic Bt crops and the characterization of how the Bt toxins interact with the insect gut cells to design more effective toxins and help delay the onset of insect resistance.
“This international honor is a testament to the importance of Dr. Jurat-Fuentes’ research program,” said UT Dean of AgResearch Bill Brown. “His studies are an example of the real-world problems our scientists work to solve every day.”
“The DuPont Young Professor program is a way to identify talented researchers and promising science early in a new professor's career,” said DuPont Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Technology Officer Douglas Muzyka. “These grants encourage highly original research of value to DuPont while helping the young professors begin their academic research careers.”
History has shown that the DuPont Young Professor grant creates a lasting relationship with academic scientists who in turn provide the company with unique perspectives on technological challenges, further aiding the DuPont research and development process. The program is significant, not only for the diversity of people, universities and studies represented, but also because it has reached out to the academic community for more than four decades, making it one of the most sustained programs for academic support in the United States.
“In many ways, this is the pinnacle of support by DuPont for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) education throughout the entire United States education system,” said Muzyka. “STEM is the required education path for the degrees these young professors have earned. DuPont is proud of the support we offer to many STEM education programs. And we see DuPont Young Professors as one of the ultimate prizes for our support of STEM efforts.”
Professors are nominated by a member of the DuPont technical staff. The nominator serves as the liaison between the company and the faculty member. The DuPont Fellows Forum, which includes the company's top scientists, selects the award winners each year. During the three-year award, each grant recipient is invited to present a seminar on his or her work to the DuPont research community in Wilmington, Del. The DuPont Young Professor program is administered by the DuPont Center for Collaborative Research & Education.
The DuPont Young Professor's Class of 2011 includes professors from China, the Philippines, Netherlands and Ukraine, Brazil, and Canada; and professors from Iowa State University, Northwestern, University of Tennessee, Virginia Tech, University of Oregon, Columbia University, Yeshiva University, Princeton, Case Western Reserve, University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.