Niblack to lead OSU plant pathology department

Terry Niblack is proud to be sitting at the helm of “what’s arguably the best plant pathology department in the country.”

Niblack, who took the reins as chair of Ohio State University’s Department of Plant Pathology on Aug. 16, admits she feels like she can brag about the department, because its reputation preceded her.

The National Research Council has ranked the department’s graduate program among the best in the country for years. Now, Niblack will enjoy the challenge of “increasing the gap between us and the also-rans,” she said, smiling, and also launching a newly created master’s degree in plant health management as well as a bachelor’s degree in plant pathology.

“Plant pathology has traditionally been graduate study, because there’s so much detail one has to master in the field,” Niblack said. “But lately, industry — including seed companies and plant breeding programs — has seen the need for pathologists with broad training. Our new bachelor’s program will provide those entry-level plant pathologists.

Niblack, who most recently was a professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, has focused her research and Extension efforts on combating soybean cyst nematode, the No. 2 soybean pest in Ohio behind Phytophthora sojae, which causes Phytophthora root rot.

Niblack looks forward to filling a few faculty vacancies in the department. One new hire will have a focus on green industries — “a huge industry in Ohio,” she said — and another will focus on mycology, the study of fungi. They will be joining a world-class faculty that works well together, whose members “are very collegial and collaborative,” Niblack said. “They’re one of the primary reasons I wanted to come here.”

In fall 2012, Niblack plans to be back in the classroom, too, to teach plant pathology’s introductory course — a course she taught for 12 years at the University of Missouri and another five years at the University of Illinois. “I love to teach, and I don’t want to give that course up,” she said.

 

The Department of Plant Pathology is part of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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