Two scientists in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences received the college’s annual Awards for Research Excellence for their significant accomplishments within their fields. 

Jeffrey Derr in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science and Igor Sharakhov in the Department of Entomology were selected by their peers based upon the two scientists’ awards, scholarly activities, impacts, and the quality of their peer-reviewed publications.

“The work that Drs. Derr and Sharakhov conduct illustrates how the combination of intellectual curiosity and a sharp mind can make difference not only in scientific research, but in the world at large,” said Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean of research and graduate studies for the college. “From helping curb pollution in the Chesapeake Bay to finding ways to combat malaria, the work they are doing exemplifies the high-impact of research within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”

Professor Derr, who is a member of the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center, was given the Award for Excellence in Applied Research. His work focuses on developing weed management strategies for horticultural crops through innovative research and Extension activities. His program promotes proper use of chemicals to promote environmental stewardship, including minimizing impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.

"I would like to thank Dr. Mostaghimi and the college for this significant award,” Derr said.  “This actually is a team award because I have had excellent graduate students and technicians assisting me in my research, along with weed science colleagues at Virginia Tech and other universities with whom I have collaborated."

He is actively involved in a number of state, regional, and national organizations and has served as the president of both the Weed Science Society of America and the Northeastern Weed Science Society. Earlier this year, he was recognized by the Weed Science Society of America as a Fellow for his outstanding contributions to the field of weed science. Derr has authored or co-authored 53 peer-reviewed journals and 136 research reports on weed management, delivered more than 775 extension talks, and authored more than 200 articles for newsletters and national trade magazines.  He received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

Associate professor Sharakhov was given the Award for Excellence in Basic Research. His research program focuses on genomics, vector biology, and medical entomology, with a specific focus on the comparative genomics and molecular genetics of the malaria mosquitoes.

In particular, he is attempting to understand the chromosomal changes that allow mosquitoes to adapt and evolve with the goal of developing novel genome-based strategies for vector control. Sharakhov has published 46 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has been published in high-impact journals such as Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This award is an excellent demonstration that our college values basic research, which may have an important impact down the road,” Sharakhov said. “Our study of evolutionary relationships among malaria vectors and non-vectors in Africa can be useful for identifying specific genetic changes associated with the human blood choice, breeding site preference, and variations in vector ability.”

Sharakhov is currently the principal investigator on two National Institutes of Health grants and just completed the work on three other research projects that were funded by NIH. He also serves as the community leader for the NIH-funded genome sequencing projects for two species of mosquitoes.  He received his master’s degree from Tomsk State University in Russia and his Ph.D. from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Russia.

The college gave $5,000 to both researchers to help support their programs.



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