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K-State Today

June 16, 2011

Electronic dissertation earns K-State plant pathologist elite award

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

A K-State research associate in plant pathology is among an elite group of researchers being recognized for exemplary theses and dissertations.

Martha Giraldo has been selected as one of three recipients worldwide of the Innovative ETD Award from the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations. The award honors students who have written exemplary electronic theses and dissertations. Winners have demonstrated new dimensions of scholarship being explored by individuals who have made significant contributions to the worldwide electronic theses and dissertation movement.

Giraldo, a December 2010 doctoral graduate in plant pathology, is K-State's fourth recipient of the award since the university began publishing theses and dissertations in the online K-State Research Exchange. She's being recognized for her dissertation, "In planta characterization of Magnaporthe oryzae biotrophy-associated secreted (BAS) proteins and key secretion components," available online at http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/6761.

Giraldo receives $500 and is eligible to receive an additional $500 in travel scholarship funding to attend the international ETD Symposium, Sept. 13-17, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Currently a postdoctoral fellow, Giraldo works with Barbara Valent, university distinguished professor of plant pathology. Valent was Giraldo's major dissertation professor.

In her dissertation, Giraldo examined the disease known as blast, which can infect crops such as wheat, rye, barley, pearl millet and even turf grasses. Its greatest impact, however, is on rice, where it's estimated that blast destroys enough rice to feed more than 60 million people each year. Rice blast is caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae.

Because her research has global impact on agriculture and hunger, Giraldo's dissertation includes video files that let the reader view images of fluorescent proteins and the infection mechanisms. The images make it possible for researchers who wouldn't otherwise have the means to view and understand the development of the disease. In addition to the videos, the dissertation also has an eight-minute video of the techniques Giraldo used to inoculate rice plants and prepare the diseased tissue for imaging.

Giraldo's work has already been published in several refereed journals, including The Plant Cell, Crop Science and Theoretical and Applied Genetics. She also has presented her work at national and international meetings, including the ninth International Mycological Congress in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, in 2010. Her trip was made possible by a Sarachek travel award from K-State's Graduate School and a Mycological Society of America travel award.

Giraldo earned a bachelor's degree in biology, with emphasis in genetics, from Universidad del Valle in Colombia.