John McDowell, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and associate scientific director of the Fralin Life Science Institute, was recently appointed the J.B. Stroobants Professor of Biotechnology by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Established in 1986 by a gift from Alphonese and Maria Stroobants of Bedford County, Virginia, in memory of Alphonese Stroobant's father, the J.B. Stroobants Professorship supports a researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who is advancing knowledge and discoveries in biotechnology.

McDowell’s research focuses on the fundamental biological principles that govern whether a plant is susceptible to disease or produces a defense response that deters the pathogen. His work has important applications in the breeding and engineering of crops that can block pathogen development and increase yield with less dependence on agrichemicals.

Known worldwide as a leader in his field, McDowell has published more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, including papers in such high-impact journals as Science and PNAS. His papers have been cited more than 4,700 times.

In addition to giving numerous invited talks, McDowell has been invited many times to serve on grant review panels by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, and the French National Research Agency. He has also been elected as associate and senior editor for several journals and is currently the editor in chief of one of the highest impact plant pathology journals, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.

Often an advisor to undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and post-doctoral students, McDowell is an outstanding instructor and has been a prominent force for biotechnology in the life sciences – and plant sciences in particular – at Virginia Tech. His total research funding is $17 million, with more than $10 million of those funds under his direction.

McDowell served as interim head of the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Sciences in 2010. He has led the translational plant sciences interdisciplinary graduate education program since 2011. He has been the acting principal scientist for Latham Hall since 2011, and in 2013, he took on an even more prominent leadership role serving as associate scientific director of the Fralin Life Science Institute.

He received his bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from the University of Tennessee and his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Georgia.

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