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K-State Today

October 4, 2023

Ganga M. Hettiarachchi to receive Outstanding Scientist Award Oct. 13

Submitted by Ignacio Ciampitti

Sigma Xi Outstanding Scientist Award

The K-State chapter of Sigma Xi will present its 2023 Outstanding Scientist Award to Ganga M. Hettiarachchi, a professor of soil and environmental chemistry in the agronomy department at Kansas State University.

Hettiarachchi's research interests focus on better understanding the mechanisms and interactions involved in soil constituents and soil nutrients or contaminants enhancing soil quality to improve crop production and/or protection of human health.

Hettiarachchi's award presentation will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in the McVay Family Town Hall, Room 114 of the Leadership Studies Building. The title of her award presentation is "Manipulating Reaction Pathways for Managing Nutrient and Contaminant Elements in Soils." 

Abstract: Despite the application of millions of tons of fertilizer to soils each year, a high proportion of applied phosphorus, nitrogen and micronutrient fertilizers are not used by crops. As a result, a significant proportion of added nutrients is either vulnerable to losses or contributing to excessive nutrient accumulation in soils, leading to economic losses and environmental concerns at multiple scales. On the other hand, widespread contamination of soils by potentially toxic trace elements is often a hidden threat to human health, food security and the environment. Further soil contamination severely impacts the major ecosystem services provided by soil. Soil interacts with nutrient or contaminant elements to enhance or reduce their bioavailability and toxicity. Understanding these interactions is critical to managing nutrient and contaminant elements in soils. This presentation highlights Hettiarachchi's research using soil chemistry-based approaches, focusing on soil constituents, soil properties and/or chemical reactions for a better understanding of underlying mechanisms to promote the efficient use of added nutrients and minimize contaminant bioavailability for safe food production and the protection of human and environmental health.

Hettiarachchi is a fellow of both the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy. Her main research areas include the fate and transport of potentially toxic trace elements along with the steps that may be taken to remediate contaminated sites, including urban brownfields and mine-impacted land; determining reaction pathways of macro- and micronutrient fertilizer sources in soils to understand their relationship to potential availability and plant uptake; and the role soil mineralogy/chemistry enhancing soil aggregation and carbon sequestration. She has received multiple awards including the 2021 Jackson Soil Chemistry and Mineralogy Award by the Soil Science Society of America. Her contributions to training next-generation scientists and professionals have been exceptional.

Hettiarachchi's award presentation will be after the annual Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecture by Laurie McNeil, Bernard Gray distinguished professor in physics and astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. McNeil will share her views on "Changing the Climate in Science" at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in the McVey Family Town Hall.

Read more about Sigma Xi. 

The K-State Chapter of Sigma Xi is a unique opportunity for scientists on campus with diverse training to interact. With changes in the world and the university, we hope you will join us in taking a renewed interest in developing and strengthening our campuswide professional scientific interactions.

If you have not already done so, please complete or renew your Sigma Xi membership. 

For more information, contact the K-State Sigma Xi leadership team: Ignacio Ciampitti at ciampitti@k-state.edu, Martha Mather at mmather@k-state.edu, and Jack Sytsma at sytsmaj134@k-state.edu