Dr. Siba Samal of College Park, Md., associate dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Samal, an internationally-renowned virologist and chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, will be recognized at the Academy Fellows Luncheon at the 114th American Society of Microbiology meeting in Boston, on Tuesday, May 20.

“Dr. Samal has contributed significantly to veterinary virology,” wrote Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology at Virginia Tech and a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology, in his nomination letter. “He identified a new group of aquatic viruses, determined the first complete genomic sequence for many important animal viruses, and developed Newcastle disease virus as a vector vaccine against human and animal pathogens.”

Members of the academy, known as Fellows, are elected through a highly selective, annual, peer-reviewed process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. The criteria for election to fellowship are scientific excellence, originality, and leadership; high ethical standards; and scholarly and creative achievement. Academy Fellows are eminent leaders in the field of microbiology and are relied upon for authoritative advice and information on critical issues in microbiology.

Each elected Fellow has built an exemplary career in basic and applied research, teaching, clinical and public health, industry, or government service. Election to Fellowship indicates recognition of distinction in microbiology by one’s peers. Over 200 Academy Fellows have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, while many have also been honored with Nobel Prizes, Lasker Awards, and the National Medal of Science.

Samal is a recognized expert on three important animal viruses: Newcastle disease virus, bovine respiratory syncytial virus, and avian metapneumovirus. He has numerous research accomplishments, including the discovery of a new group of aquatic viruses now identified as the new genus, Aquareovirus, and the determination of the first complete genomic sequences for many important animal viruses. His work on Newcastle disease virus, a contagious bird disease, has involved establishing a molecular basis for how it causes disease, engineering improved vaccines, and developing new vaccines against other human and animal diseases using the virus.

Throughout his career, Samal has received numerous prestigious awards, including the 1984 John Paul Delaplane Award at Texas A&M, the 2000 Pfizer Award for Research Excellence at the veterinary college, and the 2013 College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Excellence in Research Award at the University of Maryland. He has edited a book entitled “The Biology of Paramyxoviruses” and is currently the editor of three scientific journals.

Samal has been very active in student research projects, serving as the major advisor for 18 postdoctoral students, 24 doctoral students, and four master’s degree students.

After earning a veterinary degree at Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology in Bhubaneswar, India, Samal completed a master’s degree in veterinary virology and a doctorate in molecular virology at Texas A&M. He held virology postdocs at Baylor College of Medicine and Plum Island. Samal joined the veterinary college’s faculty in 1988 and has served as associate dean and department chair at the college’s Maryland Gudelsky Veterinary Center since 2002.

The American Academy of Microbiology website has a complete list of the 2014 Fellows.

Written by Michael Sutphin.

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