Faces of GIAR: Deborah Neher

May 06, 2022

$500 in Spring 1986; $1,200 in Spring 1988

Education level at the time of the grant: Graduate student

Project Description:
I used my first GIAR grant to purchase supplies for my MS thesis research on the topic of “Epidemic development of pre- and post-emergence damping-off caused by Pythium aphanidermatum on Glycine max and G. soja” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We tested the hypothesis that synchronous germination causes increased seed and seedling mortality from damping-off in two legume species attacked by the fungal pathogen Pythium aphanidermatum. However, we learned the relationship between population age structure and damping-off mortality was species-specific. The research resulted in my very first peer-reviewed publication. 

I used my second GIAR grant to purchase supplies for my PhD dissertation research on the topic of “Inoculum density, irrigation, and soil temperature effects on the epidemiology of Phytophthora root rot on tomato” at the University of California, Davis. My research was one of the first to quantify the effect of initial inoculum density on the epidemiology of this polycyclic disease in field conditions.   

How did the grant process or the project itself influence you as a scientist/researcher? 
It provided me both experience and confidence. In 1987, I was elected as an associate member of Sigma Xi. I have been a continuous member ever since. While I was a postdoctoral associate at North Carolina State University in 1995, I was nominated for Sigma Xi’s Young Scientist Award. 

Where are you now? 
I am professor of soil ecology in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont. I was hired as department chair in 2004, and I served in that capacity for 14 years. In 2018, I resigned my chair position so I could focus more on research, my first love.

Students may apply for Sigma Xi research grants by March 15 and October 1 annually at www.sigmaxi.org/giar.

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. www.sigmaxi.org. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety