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George W. Sundin
George W. Sundin
George W. Sundin was born in Philadelphia, PA and received a B.S. degree in Biology from The Pennsylvania State University in 1986, an M.S. in Plant Pathology from Michigan State University in 1989, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Oklahoma State University in 1994. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University.
Sundin is an internationally recognized plant bacteriologist whose major research focus is on fire blight disease and the causal bacterial pathogen
, with additional research projects examining the role of ultraviolet radiation in modulating populations of
and other epiphytic bacteria in the phyllosphere, genetics and genomics of
plasmids, and multi-host pathogenicity in
complex species. Sundin also leads a widely recognized extension tree fruit program covering diseases of pome and stone fruits and conducts research in the detection of fungicide resistance and characterization of resistance mechanisms in pathogens such as
The most significant results and impacts of Sundin’s research have come from his ability to integrate host-pathogen interactions and genomics results with knowledge gained from the pathogen biology and disease pathosystem work he conducts in the field. Sundin’s research program is fairly unique in that his work spans from the molecular to the field level with equal contributions from both areas. He is known most recently for his research in the fire blight pathosystem; his group has focused on examining pathogenicity and major virulence determinants, understanding gene regulation during infection, and determining how the gene products are deployed based on pathogen location within the plant. This work is synchronized with results Sundin’s group has obtained on the systemic migration of
populations in apple trees during infection. Thus, Sundin undertook an integrated approach to studying fire blight disease long before this type of strategy came into vogue in the pathogenesis community. The results obtained from this research will provide guidance to the development of inhibitors that block critical pathogenicity determinants with an ultimate goal to be able to deliver these inhibitors to the precise plant location needed for effective disease management.
Sundin’s group has demonstrated that biofilms are a major virulence factor in
and increase internal bacterial populations during the first phases of systemic spread of the pathogen within apple leaves. This is interesting because bacterial biofilm development is inversely regulated with the type III secretion system, a pathogenicity determinant that is the first mechanism deployed by
cells initiating infection. Sundin’s group has most recently been characterizing the role of small RNA regulators and the second messenger molecule cyclic di-GMP in controlling the rapid changes needed for production and deployment of critical virulence determinants in
during systemic migration in the plant.
Sundin’s broad impacts in the fire blight system provide the foundation for the development of future novel disease controls and have led to significant current management strategies. For example, Sundin initiated an international collaboration that demonstrated the first gene-for-gene interaction in the
E. amylovora – Malus
sp. pathosystem identifying a resistance determinant from a crabapple species that has been important in the breeding of fire blight-resistant rootstocks. Sundin’s field research determined that kasugamycin, an antibiotic only used in plant agriculture, was an excellent bactericide for fire blight control and had minimal impact on antibiotic resistance in orchard microflora. Sundin’s studies provided data that were needed for the ultimate registration of kasugamycin as a critical alternative control for fire blight for growers affected by streptomycin resistance in
Sundin is also a well-known Extension Specialist covering tree fruit diseases and their control in Michigan, the midwestern and eastern United States, and Canada. Sundin’s applied research results on fire blight and other key diseases such as apple scab and cherry leaf spot fuel his extension program, keeping it always up to date. Sundin is an in-demand speaker in Michigan and regionally, giving 20-30 presentations yearly during the winter months, and he also runs a popular YouTube site of educational videos covering tree fruit pathology.
Sundin is committed to graduate student education, mentoring of postdoctoral researchers, and introducing undergraduates and high school students to plant pathology. Sundin’s mentoring philosophy is to provide each of his mentees with the proper environment to succeed, develop, and strive to reach their full potential. He has long realized that the commitment made to these young researchers extends far beyond their time in the lab, and works hard to ensure that his mentees leave the lab with the suitable skills and outputs to be placed in the best possible positions to maximize their contributions to plant pathology.
Sundin has been an APS member since 1987, and has always believed in the importance of volunteer service to APS which started with him serving on the Bacteriology committee when he was a graduate student. Sundin also is active within the North Central Division, and was elected Councilor and served on APS Council from 2009-2011. When the role of Councilors was changed in 2011, Sundin provided leadership in the formation of the Divisional Forum, and was elected the first chairperson of this group. Currently, Sundin serves as the president of the North Central division and organized the division meeting held in East Lansing, MI in 2015. Sundin has been a frequent ad hoc reviewer for all of the APS journals, and has served as an Associate Editor, Senior Editor, and Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of Phytopathology. During his tenure as EIC (2012-2014), the Focus Issue concept was introduced, and this strategy has been instrumental in keeping the journal strong in content and its standing in the publication of high-quality plant pathology research.
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