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Oklahoma State’s Ramanjulu Sunkar awarded agricultural sciences honor

Monday, September 21, 2015

Oklahoma State University’s Ramanjulu Sunkar has been named the 2015 recipient of the Sarkeys Distinguished Professor Award by the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

The Sarkeys award is based on outstanding contributions to agriculture 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.

An associate professor in DASNR’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology, Sunkar joined the OSU faculty in 2006 and has since become recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most prolific and significant scientific authors in the field of microRNA, especially its role in plant stress response.

“Dr. Sunkar is a scientist of extraordinary skill and knowledge who integrates plant physiology, molecular biology and genomics to improve agronomic traits in crop plants,” said Thomas G. Coon, DASNR vice president, dean and director. “He ranks in the top one percent of scientists cited in their specialized field.”

A recent notable research achievement is Sunkar’s identification of a gene useful for improving bioenergy crops, which when applied to switchgrass controls a process that could lead to an 80 percent to 100 percent increase in biomass production.

“Dr. Sunkar has trained eight postdoctoral students and 13 international visiting scientists in his laboratory, which not only brings international prestige to OSU and Oklahoma but allows these individuals to take cutting-edge knowledge back to their home countries that support a variety of important crop development efforts,” said John Gustafson, professor and head of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

As a member of DASNR, Sunkar’s research program has received $2.2 million in funding from such highly competitive grant agencies as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science, among others.

Sunkar has given invited talks at professional meetings across the United States, in India and in Singapore. He has served as a proposal reviewer for grant funding agencies around the world and been a panelist for USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture program.

He serves as an associate editor for five prestigious scientific journals and in 2015 became the handling editor for the Journal of Experimental Botany.

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