Texas A&M AgriLife Research recognized 11 faculty and staff recipients of the 2023 Texas A&M AgriLife Research Director’s Awards on Jan. 10 during a ceremony dinner at The Stella Hotel in Bryan.
Seven individuals and projects earned Research Director’s Awards — established in 2018 to recognize outstanding contributions supporting AgriLife Research’s mission.
Two faculty members received a William A. Dugas Early Career Award for Research Excellence, also created in 2018. The award recognizes AgriLife Research faculty members who have made exceptional research contributions early in their careers.
A Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow and a Senior Faculty Fellow were also named at the ceremony. These permanent titles go to senior-level research or service professionals who have worked with AgriLife Research for at least five years and have demonstrated exceptional leadership and impact.
“The contributions of these individuals stand out among a long list of talented people who have made remarkable strides to advance our agency over the past year,” said G. Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., director of AgriLife Research. “They exemplify our mission to pioneer knowledge that nourishes health, strengthens communities, protects natural resources and supports economies.”
All recipients are employees of AgriLife Research in addition to other positions they might hold within The Texas A&M University System.
Administrative Support Staff Awards
Carla Smith is a senior business administrator I for Texas A&M AgriLife. In supporting the Department of Entomology and the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, within the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, she is known for building critical relationships and resources that keep the departments compliant and advancing in their missions. Smith is recognized for a mastery of office administration while performing duties “well above the expected level for her position,” her nomination letter states.
Christine Thompson is a business administrator I at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde. Thompson was nominated as a widely trusted professional who “works well beyond the boundaries of her position description.” Previously named center employee of the year, her supporting role connects the center at Uvalde to all research and extension centers in Texas. She also serves as an interface among a host of stakeholder organizations and service units and academic departments across The Texas A&M University System.
Technical Staff Support Awards
Valerie Morgan is a research specialist I at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock. Morgan has served a 25-year career at Lubbock with five promotions bringing her to her current role. Since 1998, she has published the widely used technical bulletin “Cotton Performance Trials in the High Plains and Trans-Pecos Regions of Texas.” She began publishing the results of her own work in 2010. Results stemming from her research are expected to have major impacts on cotton growers in the Texas High Plains.
Kenton Krueger is the farm research service manager in the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science, Bryan-College Station. He is cited for epitomizing commitment to the department’s research, teaching and extension missions. He is an important role model for students and for his expert management of farm equipment, livestock and farming operations. His nomination notes that Krueger “continually strives for excellence and encourages this attitude in the livestock unit managers at the O.D. Butler, Jr. Animal Science Complex.”
Infrastructure Information Technology Staff Award
Kelli Norman is a systems administrator I at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton. Norman’s computer database and analyst abilities are credited with playing a critical role in multiple AgriLife Research projects at the center and beyond. The database management system she developed, BeefSys, is a testament to her expertise and is now being refined to accommodate soil-plant-animal data sets across Texas A&M. Her development of a relational database application for over 40 years of forage-beef cattle data has enabled scientists to begin modeling forage-based beef cattle production systems.
Texas Climate-Smart Initiative
The Texas Climate-Smart Initiative is a five-year, $65-million pilot project that aims to work with Texas’ commodity producers to promote the adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service from 2023 to 2028. As a first-of-its-kind initiative, it aspires to evaluate the advantages of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices while formulating models for voluntary, market-driven climate solutions.
Research Scientist of the Year
Nithya Rajan, Ph.D.
Nithya Rajan, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Bryan-College Station. She is a prominent agronomy scientist focusing on climate-smart agriculture, and her work was instrumental in securing the Texas Climate-Smart Initiative, AgriLife Research’s largest competitive award to date. Her expertise in state-of-the-art greenhouse gas emission monitoring and modeling techniques has enabled her to make significant contributions in the field. Her award nomination cites exceptional teaching and service records, and her published works include 68 peer-reviewed journal articles, two book chapters and over 250 abstracts and presentations.
William A. Dugas Early Career Awards for Research Excellence
Katie Lewis, Ph.D.
Katie Lewis, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock. She is recognized as an exceptional soil scientist with a matching record of achievement. Her program’s grants total roughly $6.4 million, with her service as a co-principal investigator accounting for more than $153 million. Meanwhile, her graduate training program has graduated 30 master’s students and 19 doctoral students, with six serving as faculty at land-grant institutions. Her work also includes 45 peer-reviewed articles, two book chapters, 133 abstracts and more than 80 AgriLife Extension presentations.
Dmitry Kurouski, Ph.D.
Dmitry Kurouski, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Bryan-College Station. His strengths as an analytical chemist have secured his position as an authority in the physics of Raman spectroscopy. He has used the technology to develop real-time field tools for assessing comprehensive plant health and to dig deep into aggregates that underlie neurogenerative disease. With more than 30 publications and over 800 citations in 2022 alone, he has made presentations at two dozen domestic and international conferences and has given about 20 invited talks.
Paul DeLaune, Ph.D.
Paul DeLaune, Ph.D., is a professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon. He has developed a nationally and internationally recognized research program emphasizing sustainable crop production in semi-arid environments. DeLaune is recognized for his expertise in soil health and soil carbon in row crop production systems and wheat/stocker cattle systems. Meanwhile, through his applied research program, he keeps closely in tune with environmental and agricultural challenges to growers and residents of the Texas Rolling Plains and High Plains. He is cited for his keen sense in identifying research that bridges environmental issues and grower profitability.
Senior Faculty Fellow
Raghavan “Srini” Srinivasan, Ph.D.
Raghavan “Srini” Srinivasan is director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Blackland Research and Extension Center at Temple and the Spatial Sciences Laboratory at Texas A&M University. He is lauded across the globe for his developmental work in spatial sciences and computer-based modeling. He is best known for his global leadership and advances in the development, dissemination and applications of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool, SWAT, now used in more than 90 countries. His work has influenced environmental and land-use policies worldwide, and SWAT is the primary scientific tool used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop and analyze methods to reduce water pollution. His publications have been cited over 53,000 times, and he has secured more than $25 million in grants and contracts at Texas A&M.