WOOSTER, Ohio — The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University has announced the creation of a research lecture series in recognition of Steve Slack, who served as director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center for 16 years until his retirement in December 2015.
The Steven A. Slack Lecture on Innovative Research in AgBiosciences will be given every year during the OARDC Annual Research Conference by a nationally and internationally respected scholar in agricultural biosciences who has made or is on a path to making significant, meaningful contributions to his or her field of expertise.
The largest university agbiosciences research center in the U.S., OARDC is the research arm of CFAES.
“Steve championed the role of research in the college and also broadened its impact through engagement with internal and external partners,” said Ron Hendrick, acting CFAES dean and vice president for agricultural administration. “He led the college’s research enterprise through significant growth and change that allowed scientists to focus on significant societal challenges. This lecture series recognizes his commitment to research and to this institution.”
In addition to being regarded as an expert in his or her discipline, the chosen lecturer must conduct work that has a direct impact on the lives of agricultural producers, consumers, researchers or educators.
Also, individuals selected for the Steven A. Slack Lecture on Innovative Research in AgBiosciences are expected to challenge listeners to be bold and innovative in their scholarship, and to move beyond the simple and address the complex so that broad, meaningful impact is achieved, according to the lecture series’ description.
The inaugural lecture will be delivered by Jan Leach, professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University. This year’s OARDC Annual Research Conference will be held April 16 at the Shisler Conference Center on OARDC’s Wooster campus.
Leach is an expert on molecular plant-microbe interactions. Her laboratory studies genes in quantitative trait loci (QTL), which control many important plant characteristics such as disease resistance, biomass accumulation, yield and health benefits. The long-term goal of her research is to identify genetic locations where crops can be modified to improve disease resistance and biomass accumulation for sustainable agricultural production.
Slack spent over four decades dedicated to teaching, research and administration. He joined OARDC in 1999 after serving as chair of the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University, where he was also the Henry and Mildred Uihlein Professor of Plant Pathology. Before that, he was a faculty member in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Slack’s key accomplishments at OARDC included tripling extramural funding for the organization; leading an extensive review of OARDC programs and its economic impact in Ohio that identified three core investment areas (food, environment and bioeconomy), which later became the college’s strategic areas; and supporting public-private partnerships, including the BioHio Research Park.
He also oversaw important facility improvements, including construction of the Ralph Regula Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Research facility, the state’s only public BSL-3 Ag biosafety lab.