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Fay, Dhekney recognized for achievements during research awards banquet

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Laramie – The 2016 University of Wyoming (UW) Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) Research Awards and Appreciation Banquet welcomed researchers from around the state to Laramie on Feb. 17 to celebrate the great strides made in research this year.

In addition, University of Wyoming leadership joined the event to recognize research efforts in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Dean Frank Galey welcomed attendees to the event commending, “The College of Ag brings in more dollars for research than anyone at UW.”

Those dollars are put toward research that answers questions in a variety of disciplines, from rangeland and watershed management to molecular biology and food science.

125 years

The event also marked the kick-off of UW AES’s 125th anniversary celebration.

“Tonight is the kick-off for our 125-year anniversary,” Bret Hess, director of UW AES, said, adding that a number of activities will take place throughout the year to celebrate the achievement.

“We have a sheep wagon that is currently parked across from the Union in Simpson Plaza with a banner commemorating our 125 years,” he said. “That wagon will be accompanied by a display that will move throughout the state and be pulled by a team of horses.”

Hess added that the liaison between UW Libraries and the College of Ag, David Kruger, will also be writing a book to commemorate the year.

Comments from the President

UW President Dick McGinity commented, “This is a very, very important celebration. The 125th anniversary of the research station really means something. This is a piece of history we should all be proud of.”

McGinity noted that AES research has played a significant role for producers around the state since it was established in 1891 “to promote scientific investigation in ag.”

“The effectiveness of this research over these 125 years is reflected in the knowledge of my neighbors in Crowheart and others around the state,” he continued. “It is remarkable how the idea behind research stations in the beginning still works today.”

Over the last three years, McGinity also marked success of the College of Ag and AES, noting that they have secured $43 million in external funding and published 384 refereed works.

McGinity praised the work of AES and Extension and encouraged continued growth of the programs.

Award winners

As the highlight of the evening, a number of researchers were honored for their work and for papers they have submitted during the year.

As Outstanding Research Award winner, David Fay in the Department of Molecular Biology was recognized for his work. Fay is a professor and director of the Wyoming INBRE Developmental Research Project Program, as well.

“In the broadest sense, we are trying to understand how genes and the proteins they encode control fundamental molecular and cellular processes during animal development,” Fay explained. “This is not only interesting from a biological standpoint but is also highly relevant to human health.”

Fay noted that they are seeking to understand the normal function of genes associated with fundamental biological processes to gain deeper insight into the molecular causes of disease.

“We are incredibly grateful to make our lives here,” Fay said on receiving the award. I really enjoy being a part of this university.”

Early career

Next, Sadanand Dhekney was honored for his work with grape cultivars in Wyoming as the Early Career Award winner.

“My program utilizes techniques in breeding and biotechnology along with improved management practices for expanding grapevine production in Wyoming,” he explained of his work. “Screening Vitis germplasm for yield, quality and cold-hardiness and evaluation of production systems for seedless grape cultivars in high tunnels is also a major focus area.”

He also noted that he works with grapevine genomics and biotechnology to improve the stress tolerance of elite grape cultivars.

“This is really a great honor,” Dhekney commented. “It has been a dream position to start my own research from the ground and to work with students and the community. It has a been a good challenge.”

Though he noted that colleagues are often shocked when he explains he is working to grow grapes in Wyoming, the opportunity is one that he appreciates.

Reflections awards

Awards for published paper in UW’s research magazine Reflections were also recognized during the event.

Each department nominates one paper to be submitted by its faculty for publication in the magazine. The author of the paper that is selected receives $1,000, as well as $1,000 to the department to be used toward research needs. KJ Reddy and David Legg were selected as the winners, from the Department of Ecosystems Science and Management.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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