The Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence – Early Career Research honor was presented to Dr. Muthu Bagavathiannan at a recent ceremony on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.
The awards, established in 1980, recognize the commitment and contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife, and represent the highest level of achievement for the organization.
Bagavathiannan — called Dr. Muthu or Muthu by students and colleagues — joined the Texas A&M department of soil and crop sciences as a tenure-track weed science faculty in 2014 with a Texas A&M AgriLife Research appointment. He has since established a rigorous research group that is gaining national and international recognition in weed science research, his nomination stated. Rice is among the crops he works in.
“Muthu’s research focuses primarily on understanding herbicide-resistance evolution in weeds and developing integrated weed management solutions for various cropping systems,” says Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the department of soil and crop sciences.
As a principal investigator or co-investigator, Bagavathiannan received through a diverse range of funding sources more than $15 million in grant funds, of which $3.3 million went directly into his research program. In particular, he has secured five U.S. Department of Agriculture grants as the principal investigator and another five USDA grants as the co-principal investigator.
“Muthu engages with producer groups, agribusiness industry and other funding sources to provide additional support to his program,” Baltensperger says. “He has quickly built an aggressive research program by attracting talent from national and international arenas.”
Bagavathiannan supervises four doctoral students and two master’s students and is serving on one doctoral and master student committee. He mentored 11 international scholars/interns and 10 undergraduate student researchers. He also mentors two postdoctoral researchers and two research assistants.
Bagavathiannan is also an active member of the TAMU-Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS, project where his program has made excellent progress in using UAS for weed management applications. He has provided significant leadership to the weed research and development activities within Texas.
He has authored or co-authored 26 peer-reviewed journal manuscripts, eight book chapters and four Extension bulletins since 2014. Two of his lead publications have been selected as featured articles by the journals “Weed Science” and “Weed Technology.”
“Muthu has also been very effective in translating his research findings into classroom teaching,” Baltensperger says. “His recent student evaluations were higher than the departmental average at both undergraduate and graduate levels.”
He developed a new course to train students with practical job skills in applied weed science and agronomy and prepare them for the Southern Weed Judging Contest. A total of 26 graduate students and 10 undergraduate students were trained as part of this activity.
Bagavathiannan co-chaired the Weed Biology and Ecology section of the 2016 WSSA annual meeting in Puerto Rico and chaired the 2017 meeting in Tucson, Arizona. He also chaired the Weed Science and Growth Regulation session of the 2016 Rice Technical Working Group meeting in Galveston.
He was selected as a recipient of the Outstanding Reviewer Award by WSSA and also received an Outstanding Reviewer Status by the “Crop Protection Journal,” published by Elsevier.
Texas A&M AgriLife contributed this article.