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Source: Susan Sun, 785-532-4077,
Photos available. Contact or 785-532-6415.

Friday, May 15, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Research excellence is earning three Kansas State University scientists honors from K-State's chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society.

Ryszard Jankowiak, professor of chemistry, and John Leslie, professor and head of the department of plant pathology, are the 2009 recipients of Sigma Xi's Outstanding Senior Scientist Award; Krista Walton, assistant professor of chemical engineering, is the recipient Sigma Xi's 2009 Outstanding Junior Scientist Award.

"The prestigious Outstanding Senior Scientist Award is only given to Sigma Xi members who have made outstanding contributions to scientific advancement and have demonstrated outstanding ability and accomplishments in scientific research in their fields," said Susan Sun, K-State professor of grain science and industry and chair of the Sigma Xi Award Committee.

The Outstanding Junior Scientist Award is given to Sigma Xi members who have demonstrated outstanding ability and accomplishments in scientific research in their fields within five years after receiving a doctoral degree, Sun said.

Jankowiak had a long, successful professional career before joining K-State's department of chemistry as a full professor in 2005. After earning his doctoral degree in condensed matter physics/spectroscopy from Poland's Technical University of Gdansk in 1981, he worked for the Technical University of Gdansk, Camerino University in Italy, Philipps University in Germany, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, which is associated with Iowa State University. Jankowiak has published 190 papers in refereed journals, including several invited reviews and nine book chapters. He has presented numerous invited talks at various universities in about 20 countries. In 1998 he received the prestigious Research and Development 100 Award. His currentresearch interests are hole-burning spectroscopy and structural disorder in glasses and proteins; excitation energy and electron transfer in various photosynthetic antenna and reaction center complexes at low temperatures and high pressures; single molecule spectroscopy; and chemical carcinogenesis.

"He has been incredibly productive throughout his 30-year scientific career. He is well-known across the world as an outstanding physical chemist for his work," said Dan Higgins, a professor of chemistry at K-State.

"Professor Jankowiak is a distinguished scholar with an international reputation for excellence in several areas of his research. His work has provided significant contribution to our understanding both of chemical carcinogenesis and the intimate details of photosynthetic reaction centers," said Eric Maatta, professor and head of K-State's department of chemistry.

Leslie left industry for an assistant professor position in plant pathology at K-State in 1984, becoming head of the department of plant pathology in 2006. He maintains an active research program in the genetics of Fusarium. He has published more than 130 refereed journal articles and 20 book chapters. His 400-page book, "The Fusarium Laboratory Manual," was first published by Blackwell in mid-2006 and is already in its third printing. The Fusarium Laboratory Workshops that he organizes annually in Manhattan and elsewhere have drawn participants from more than 30 countries and serve as a means to unite the large and divergent group of scientists who work with these fungi. Leslie will be named a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society at the society’s annual meeting in Portland, Ore., later this year.

"Dr. Leslie is an internationally respected, highly productive and well-rounded scholar. He is a world authority on the genetics, population biology and taxonomy of Fusarium," said Douglas Jardine, professor of plant pathology at K-State.

"Dr. John Leslie has a continuous and truly outstanding record of scholarship and is recognized nationally and around the world in the disciplinary realms of fungal biology and genetics,” said Gary Bergstrom, professor of plant pathology at Cornell University.

Walton earned a bachelor's in chemical and materials engineering from the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 2000, and a doctorate in chemical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 2005. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University before joining K-State in 2006. Her research activities focus on various aspects of the design, synthesis and characterization of functional porous materials for use in applications including absorption separations, air purification, gas storage, chemical sensing and catalysis. Her research accomplishments have been recognized with the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award in 2007; the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2008; and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2009. She has published 20 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has given 40 presentations at national and international conferences. Her work is supported by external research funds of approximately $3 million from sources including the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation.

"In my nine years on the faculty at Georgia Tech, and the past seven years here at K-State, Dr. Walton is the single most talented assistant professor that I have had the pleasure to know. Not only is Krista a brilliant researcher, she is an outstanding teacher and has been recognized as a scientific leader," said Mary Rezac, professor and head of K-State's department of chemical engineering.