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Sources: Frank White, 785-532-1362,;
and Anna Whitfield, 785-532-3364,;
News release prepared by: Tyler Sharp, 785-532-2535,

Friday, Oct. 29, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Two faculty members and two graduate students from Kansas State University's department of plant pathology were recognized at the recent annual American Phytopathological Society meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

Frank White, professor of plant pathology and an international authority on the molecular basis of plant disease, was named a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in recognition of his distinguished contributions to plant pathology and society. White discovered a group of genes that are transferred from bacteria to plants during infection. He also identified bacterial genes naturally present in some plant genomes. White recently also characterized the family of bacterial virulence factors that alter the expression of plant genes and condition the plant for either susceptibility or resistance to disease.

"The recognition by your peers is always very satisfying, and although maybe not the driving force, makes the road seem smoother," White said.

White has been at K-State since 1985 and has been a full professor since 2001. He was recently named a recipient of K-State's 2010-2011 Commerce Bank Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award.

Anna Whitfield, assistant professor of plant pathology, was named an up-and-comer in virology by the society. As part of the award Whitfield presented at the Schroth Faces of the Future Early Career Professionals Symposium on her current research and research priorities for the future. In addition to presenting at the annual meeting, she received travel assistance funds.

Whitfield has made significant progress toward determining the viral determinants of vector transmission for tomato spotted wilt virus. The virus infects a large number of plant species, many of which are important agronomic and ornamental crops. She collaborated with Dorith Rotenberg, research associate professor of plant pathology, on developing transcriptome tools for important arthropod vectors. Whitfield has also established a research program focused on the basic biology of plant virus vector interactions and the genomics of important insect vectors.

Lorena Gomez-Montano, doctoral candidate in plant pathology, Cali, Colombia, and Kehinde Obasa, doctoral candidate in plant pathology, Manhattan, received travel assistance awards. Gomez-Montano received the Zahir Eyal Award and the Eugene S. Saari Award. Obasa received the Janell Stevens Johnk Award.

Gomez-Montano's project was "Pyrosequencing to determine the influence of fallow period on soil microbial communities in the Bolivian highlands." Pyrosequencing allows the categorization of hundreds of thousands of individual microbes or functional genes within a short period of time. She participated in a poster presentation and oral presentation at the annual meeting.

The ability to showcase the department of plant pathology's various projects to a national audience is greater than any recognition, Gomez-Montano said.

"Sharing the experience with the whole plant pathology community, and receiving feedback from them, is always an enrichment process," she said.