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K-State Today

May 9, 2013

Distinguished assistance: Rotenberg earns university award for undergraduate mentoring

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

A Kansas State University plant pathologist is being recognized for her abilities and efforts in training the next generation of researchers.

Dorith Rotenberg, research associate professor of plant pathology, is receiving the 2013 University Distinguished Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Students in Research. The award is based on mentoring performed in the previous academic year, and includes a plaque and $2,500.

"Dorith is a great example of a faculty member who not only personally excels in the laboratory, but is committed to ensuring that our undergraduate students also excel," said Kirk Schulz, university president. "Dr. Rotenberg's dedication to undergraduate success is a point of pride for the department of plant pathology and as K-State moves forward to becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025."

Rotenberg joined K-State in 2006. Her research expertise is in ecological genomics of plant virus and insect vector interactions. She also is leading a project that is sequencing the genome -- or genetic blueprint -- of the western flower thrips, a tiny winged pest insect that spreads deadly plant viruses.

Currently, Rotenberg advises a doctoral student and a postdoctoral research associate. She also serves as the national education leader for the Thrips Tospovirus Education Network -- an education initiative that is part of a $3.75 million research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative that aims to develop and integrate new strategies for controlling thrips-transmitted viruses like tomato spotted wilt virus.

As the national educational leader, Rotenberg is ensuring that the project incorporates undergraduate students, providing them with research opportunities through educational and mentorship components.

She currently is developing a communication network that connects undergraduates involved in the project from the various universities across the nation. This will give the students opportunities to network with their future colleagues, discuss their findings and learn about the research focus and data at the partnering universities.

Additionally, she and colleagues established scholarships for the graduate-level students to train and mentor the undergraduate students involved in the project.

Rotenberg said that mentoring young researchers is mutually beneficial, as both parties benefit from the relationship.

"The students benefit by learning scientific method, gaining confidence in speaking and writing about science, and mastering numerous research tools for addressing their questions," she said. "I benefit by having a well-trained team of enthusiastic, curious and productive researchers. Ultimately, society benefits by gaining a dynamic and diverse next generation of scientists."

Rotenberg earned her bachelor's degree in biochemistry and master's and doctoral degrees in plant pathology, all from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.