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Eight Illinois researchers rank among world’s most influential

BY Liz Ahlberg Touchstone

Eight faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2019 Highly Cited Researchers list, a global listing of scientists who produced the past decade’s most influential papers, compiled by the Web of Science group, a Clarivate Analytics company - including three from the IGB.

The list recognizes researchers “who produced multiple papers ranking in the top 1% by citations for their field and year of publication, demonstrating significant research influence among their peers,” according to Web of Science. It selected 6,216 researchers for their performance in 21 fields and for cross-field influence in scholarly publications from 2008 to 2018.

The IGB faculty include USDA Agricultural Research Service and crop sciences and plant biology adjunct professor Lisa Ainsworth (CABBI/GEGC, highly cited for cross-field impact), crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen P. Long (BSD/CABBI/GEGC, cross-field), and plant biology professor Donald Ort (GEGC leader/BSD/CABBI, plant and animal science).

Lisa Ainsworth leads the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, and is a professor in plant biology and adjunct professor in crop sciences. Ainsworth conducts research aimed at increasing crop production under changing climates. Her research uses physiological, biochemical, and genetic approaches to understand the mechanisms of plant responses to air pollution and climate change. A key goal of her work is to maximize crop production in the future.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for the citations to my research. Although I appear on the list, most of my highly cited publications have been written in collaboration with exceptional mentors (including Steve Long and Don Ort), graduate students, and post-docs. I am grateful to all of them for their collaboration and hard work,” Ainsworth says.

Long is the Stanley O. Ikenberry Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology. He uses computational and experimental approaches to improve photosynthetic efficiency, and works to address the effects of climate change on crop yield. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2013, and has been recognized as a highly cited researcher in the field of plant and animal science every year since 2005.  He directs Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency, a multinational project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development.

“Although these awards are attributed to individuals, it is important to recognize that it is the facilities and environment provided by the university, ACES, and crop sciences, along with colleagues and exceptionally able graduate students and post-doctoral fellows that have made this possible,” Long says.

Ort is the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences. His research focuses on improving photosynthesis and addresses crop responses to global change factors including increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. 

“This recognition is made possible by amazing students, postdocs, and faculty colleagues in Crop Sciences, Plant Biology, and the IGB that it has been my good fortune know and collaborate with,” Ort says.

Kimberlee Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES, says, “The work of Drs. Ainsworth, Long, and Ort demonstrates how research conducted at Illinois supports the scientific community by addressing the world’s greatest challenges. The concentration of talented faculty and staff at this university continues to amaze me. The passion and commitment these two individuals have for making a difference through their work is truly inspiring, and we are honored that they are members of the ACES family.”

The remaining faculty members named include materials science and engineering professor Axel Hoffmann (cross-field), electrical and computer engineering professor Thomas Huang (engineering), geography and geographic information science professor Mei-Po Kwan (cross-field), bioengineering professor Shuming Nie (cross-field), and mechanical science and engineering professor Arend van der Zande (cross-field).


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