Staff Award Winners 2017

May 31, 2017

Written by Leon Van Eck

Professional and Academic (P &A) Award of Excellence

Plant Sciences Librarian Kristen Cooper Kristen Cooper

Kristen Cooper is the Department of Plant Pathology’s Library Liason. Cooper holds a Master of Library Science from St. Catherine University and a Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology. Not satisfied with being squirreled away in the depths of Magrath like your stereotypical librarian, Cooper established her own “library hours” in the newly transformed Borlaug Commons. The result is that Cooper has maintained unparalleled library presence in Borlaug Hall, and has become a highly active member of the Plant Pathology community. She is essential to the departmental mission in teaching and research. Cooper supports the information needs of the entire Department, including faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and students. In fact, Cooper is an active participant in student orientation, getting them set up with appropriate reference management tools right away. She has also become known for her dynamic and lively seminars on using library databases and best practices for creating scientific posters. Supporting research is also important to Cooper. She is currently carrying out a project to add all of Dr. Steffenson’s research papers to the University Digital Conservancy, which involves working with publishers to obtain permissions to make them openly accessible. “I have a stronger relationship with the university libraries than I did when we had a physical library housed in the Department,” said Dr. Dill-Macky. “I believe that Kristen is responsible for much of that success.” For the extraordinary ways in which she has enriched the Department of Plant Pathology, Cooper is recognized with the Professional & Academic Award of Excellence.

Civil Service Award of Excellence

Plant Pathology Todd BurnesTodd Burnes

Todd Burnes is one of those people who makes the Department of Plant Pathology work. Apart from being an excellent scientist, Burnes is also the Laboratory Coordinator for several undergrad and graduate level courses offered in the Department. In particular his Civil Service Award of Excellence recognizes his contributions to Introductory Plant Pathology (PLPA 2001), taught by Dr. Ruth Dill-Macky, and Principles of Plant Pathology (PLPA 5480) and Introduction to Fungal Biology (PLPA 5203), both taught by Dr. Brett Arenz. Students arrive to a weekly lab session to find all the required materials carefully laid out by Burnes, who acts as the lab instructor. Graduate student Deepak Rajendran, who acted as TA for an undergrad course with a lab administrated by Burnes, praised his skill for setting up clear lab tutorials. “He personifies meticulousness,” Rajendran said. Burnes’s attention to details ensures a great lab experience for students. Dr. Arenz stated the Department of Plant Pathology is exceptionally lucky to have Burnes. “I always know that the weekly lab session will be of top notch quality,” he said, explaining that it saves time and allows course instructors to broaden the scope of their classes. On course evaluation forms, students invariably praise the laboratory component as the highlight of the class. Todd Burnes is approachable, and supportive of student needs. He has consistently made sure that the labs offered through the Department of Plant Pathology augment student understanding of the science, and keep students on track to meet their learning goals. For this he is recognized with the Civil Service Award of Excellence.

Beheshteh ZargaranBeheshteh Zargaran

Beheshteh Zargaran became a fantastic asset to the Department of Plant Pathology the moment she joined Dr. Ruth Dill-Macky’s group in 2004. As a lab manager, she maintains the growing collection of plant pathogen isolates in the Small Grains Pathology Laboratory, and handles the hiring and supervision of undergraduate student workers. Praising Zargaran’s administrative aptitude, Dr. Dill-Macky said: “I can count on Beheshteh to undertake a multitude of tasks that require regular attention, and even to politely remind me when I need to attend to something to keep the wheels on the lab.” Although lab management and student supervision are tasks Zargaran carries out with great skill and patience, her work has far-reaching impacts. Annually, Zargaran coordinates the production of Fusarium inoculum used in projects by both Dr. Dill-Macky and Dr. Brian Steffenson’s groups. This has proved instrumental in the success of both the wheat and barley breeding programs at UMN. Recently, Zargaran worked to identify and correct issues with the Crookston collection, which was invaluable to work conducted at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center. When Dr. Steffenson had a visiting scientist from Iran, Ali Mehrabi, Zargaran didn’t hesitate to step in as logistics coordinator for his visit. From picking him up at the airport, to hosting him and getting his family settled in the Twin Cities, Zargaran organized it all. All while still being the go-to person for programming the dew chamber used in stripe rust experiments! For strong work ethic and attention to detail, Zargaran is recognized with the Civil Service Award of Excellence.