Rose C. Gergerich
Rose Gergerich, born in Wausau, Wisconsin, grew up on a dairy farm with her ten siblings and parents who stressed the importance of education and hard work. She received a B.A. degree in education and an M.S. degree in botany from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Michigan State University. She is currently a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Arkansas.
Gergerich’s research focuses in the area of etiology, epidemiology, and control of plant virus diseases with an emphasis on the virus–vector relationships of beetle- and nematodetransmitted viruses. She has maintained a comprehensive research program in both basic and applied virology. Her program serves two distinct objectives: (i) a basic scientific intellectual objective that allows for a theoretical understanding of how vectors transmit plant viruses, and (ii) a practical objective that suggests how to apply our understanding of viral disease development to plan efficient strategies for disease management. It is, in part, this duality of purpose that distinguishes Gergerich’s research program. Gergerich is well recognized both nationally and internationally for her innovative research in plant virus transmission by beetle vectors. The most significant accomplishment in her basic research was the development of a theory to explain the specificity of virus transmission by leaf-feeding beetles. Her pioneering research in this area has led to an understanding of the role of ribonuclease in beetle regurgitant, as well as the function of virus particle translocation and viral infection of unwounded tissue as determinants in beetle transmission of viruses. In her study on the transmission of virus–nematode vectors, she developed and used an immunofluorescent labeling technique to identify the unique virus attachment sites for several viruses that are transmitted by nematodes. Using this technique, she was able to study virus attachment in populations of nematodes, and she demonstrated that the gain and loss of virus from attachment sites in the nematodes within a population parallels the increase and decrease, respectively, in the transmission efficiency of the nematode population.
Gergerich’s most important accomplishments in applied research have been the determination of the incidence and spread of three economically important viral diseases in winter wheat and tomato in Arkansas. Information from her collaborative work with colleagues at the University of Arkansas has helped to establish control methods for reducing the incidence of two soilborne viruses in winter wheat in Arkansas and to identify sources of resistance to Tomato spotted wilt virus in tomato. Recently, the Arkansas blackberry production and nursery industries, as well as the internationally recognized blackberry breeding program at the University of Arkansas, have been threatened by the occurrence and spread of viral diseases of unknown etiology. In a collaborative effort with researchers at the USDA Horticultural Crops Research Lab, they have identified and partially characterized two new viruses in symptomatic blackberry cultivars and wild blackberry plants in Arkansas. A crinivirus, Blackberry yellow veinassociated virus, is widespread in cultivated blackberries in the United States. Gergerich was instrumental in developing guidelines for the Arkansas State Plant Board inspectors for the blackberry certification program, and this effort will have an impact on the management of the diseases in blackberry caused by these viruses.
Gergerich has characterized the reactions of selected plant introductions (PIs) of Glycine canescens, G. falcata, G. latifolia, G. latrobeana, G. microphylla, and G. tomentella to Bean pod Vol. 97, No. 1, 2007 23 mottle virus (BPMV). She identified nine PIs resistant to this virus from these species. Presently, there are no known soybean cultivars resistant to BPMV. Efforts to identify resistance to CMV in cowpea have been unsuccessful, and Gergerich is currently working to produce CMV-resistant transgenic cowpeas through an RNA silencing mechanism. Gergerich has maintained a comprehensive and well-balanced applied and basic research program as reflected by support of her overall program from various extramural grants including the USDA/NRI Competitive Grants Program.
Gergerich’s activities in teaching have improved the educational experience of students and have been recognized by students, colleagues, and peers. Gergerich teaches two graduate courses, Plant Virology and Science Professionalism, and has developed and taught an undergraduate course in general virology in the Department of Biological Science. Gergerich has served as a major advisor and/or co-major advisor to a dozen graduate students for both M.S. and Ph.D. degree candidates, and has served on 47 graduate committees of M.S. and Ph.D. students from different departments in the college and from other colleges on campus. In addition, she is actively involved in other instructional or advising activities. For example, she served as advisor for the Graduate Student Organization and coached students for the APS DeBary Bowl Competition, served as advisor for Adair undergraduate summer research internships, and served as chair of the plant science Ph.D. program. Gergerich is a demanding instructor who requires her students to put forth their absolute best efforts. Because of her commitment to instructional excellence and dedication to students, she has become a key advisor in the department known for its graduate advising and teaching.
Gergerich has served APS effectively in many capacities. She served as an associate editor for Plant Disease (1986–1989) and as senior editor (1990–1993) and editor-in-chief (2003–present) for APS PRESS (1990–1993). She served as secretary of APS (1995–1998) and was elected and served as councilor-at-large (1998–2001). She has been a member of numerous committees including the Virology Committee (1988–1992, chair in 1992), Women in Plant Pathology Committee (1992–1995), and Teaching Committee (2002–2005). Gergerich’s determination to make plant pathological research useful to solving problems and furthering the science of plant pathology is second only to her compassion for others. While her self-imposed rigorous schedule often finds her in her office, lab, greenhouse, or fields long after others have left, Gergerich always has time to listen to the professional or personal problems of others. Her enthusiasm for her research and her concern and caring for her work and for the people with whom she works makes her a truly special person.