Oklahoma State University’s Vijaya Gopal Kakani has been named the 2020 recipient of the Sarkeys Distinguished Professor Award by the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
The annual Sarkeys award recognizes outstanding academic leadership and contributions to the agricultural industry through teaching, research or extension efforts. The award was established by the Sarkeys Foundation in 1980 to honor Elmo Baumann, an agronomist who worked with the foundation after his retirement from OSU.
Kakani is the holder of OSU’s Warth Distinguished Professorship and has more than 30 years of research experience and expertise in agronomy, crop physiology, remote sensing technology and crop growth modeling. He has received national and international recognition for his research assessing the interactive connections between crops, energy and climate.
“Dr. Kakani is known for having a bold vision and a systems approach to improving agricultural production,” said Tom Coon, OSU vice president and dean of agricultural programs. “He has no small ideas or meek plans and challenges himself to work at levels from the molecular to the ecosystem.”
Coon also lauded Kakani as “a dedicated mentor who works to open doors for students as he was mentored in his intellectual development.” Kakani has worked extensively with U.S. and international students at OSU and has been recognized for providing hands-on learning experiences that engage and inspire participants about careers in science. He has also served on the research and diversity committees of OSU Faculty Council.
A faculty member in the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences since 2008, Kakani has been the principal or co-principal investigator on research projects funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Science Foundation, Oklahoma Wheat Commission and numerous other industry and international organizations.
“Dr. Kakani has shown an aptitude for building successful research teams to tackle large-scale issues facing modern agriculture,” said Jeff Edwards, head of the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “A commitment to remain at the forefront of research and a willingness to adapt one’s area of inquiry are the hallmarks of a scientist dedicated to career-long productivity. Gopal is very much a role model for dedication to service and doing relevant work on behalf of agricultural producers.”
Kakani said he has always been a researcher at heart, with his career choice reflecting his time growing up in India, even if he did not always recognize it at the time.
“I used to repair our home transistor radio so I could continue to listen to my favorite songs,” he said. “This inquisitiveness in technology and my surroundings – India went from widespread starvation at its time of independence to self-reliance in food production by the time I finished high school in 1985 – had a significant influence on my career choice.”
Kakani has authored or co-authored 93 refereed publications and given more than 160 presentations at industry and academia meetings.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy at India’s Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Kakani earned his doctoral degree in agriculture at England’s University of Reading in 2001.