Christine Smart, a professor of plant pathology who specializes in the development of management strategies for vegetable diseases, has been appointed director of the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS). She began her tenure Aug. 1.
Smart had been serving as interim director since July 1, 2016, when Alan Collmer, the Andrew J. and Grace B. Nichols Professor in the SIPS Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, finished his two-year appointment as the inaugural director.
“Chris has done an outstanding job this year leading SIPS as its interim director,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “I will continue to count on her to advance the visibility and meaningful impact of Cornell’s work in plant sciences and advance SIPS as a global leader.”
The school launched in 2014 to integrate five departments – Horticulture; Plant Biology; Plant Breeding and Genetics; Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology; and Soil and Crop Sciences – into a single CALS administrative unit. SIPS unifies distinct disciplines to tackle urgent challenges relevant to plant scientists, with the mission of creating useful plant improvements that improve human health and advance environmental sustainability.
Smart was appointed to a five-year term.
“It is an honor to have this position, and I continue to be inspired by the outstanding science and global impact of SIPS,” Smart said. “At no point has the need for research on plants and soils been greater. The combined expertise of our outstanding faculty and our commitment to science-based solutions positions us to address some of the most serious and fundamental challenges facing humanity.”
Collmer said the first two years of the school established SIPS as a cohesive unit that promotes collaboration and communication among all of the university’s plant and soil scientists. The school represents a unified framework for researchers in the five component sections, he said, adding, “I am confident that Chris Smart is the ideal person to advance our collective mission.”
Smart joined the Cornell faculty in 2003 after serving as a postdoctoral researcher, research associate and visiting assistant professor at Cornell since 1996. Her research into the diseases of vegetable crops such as cucurbits, cabbage and tomatoes focuses on population genetics, detection and disease management under field conditions in New York. She develops novel disease management options that promote sustainable agricultural practices for conventional and organic growers.
Earlier this year, Smart joined Cornell’s New York State Industrial Hemp Program as project coordinator. The program combines expertise across SIPS and entomology to develop agricultural practices that benefit New York farmers.
Smart has taken the lead on several projects to promote agricultural outreach and student development. She helped launch the Summer Research Scholars Program in 2008 to bring undergraduates from across the U.S to Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, for nine weeks of intensive study in agricultural sciences.
She has served as head of the SIPS Council of Extension Leaders, and in 2016 initiated the “Skills for Public Engagement” class for undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell to teach effective science communication.
Smart received the CALS Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Applied Research in 2013, and was named a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in 2016.
Matt Hayes is managing editor and social media officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.