Nichole O'Neill received her M.S in botany from the University of Maryland in 1973, and her Ph.D. in plant pathology from Louisiana State University in 1976. After a post-doctoral appointment with Dr. George Papavizas, she joined the USDA-ARS Field Crops Laboratory in Beltsville as a Research Plant Pathologist. Since then, this has morphed into a position in the Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory.
Nikki's research has focused on diseases of grasses and forage legumes. She has characterized a number of pathogens and the diseases they cause, including some that were new to the country. A principal focus has been to find sources of genetic resistance to diseases damaging alfalfa. In characterizing alfalfa diseases and their races, Nikki contributed new insights in the phylogenetic relationships of the fungal pathogens. In another interesting area, she has advanced progress in biological control of certain undesirable plants.
Nikki has been an active member of APS, having served on various committees including: Placement (chair), Biochemistry, Physiology, and Molecular Biology, Editorial Board of Plant Disease, ad hoc committee on Women in Plant Pathology (Chair), APS Office of International Programs, and Ornamentals and Turfgrass.
In the Potomac Division, she has also served on or chaired the Program Committee, Resolutions committee, Local Arrangements committee, and Graduate Student Award committee. From 1993 to 96, she was our admirably efficient Secretary-Treasurer, and from 1997 to 99 she served as our energetic and conscientious Vice President and President. In those five years, she was, although not solely by herself, nevertheless in significant measure, the life of the Division. It was she who organized the joint meeting with the northeastern division in Annapolis that pioneered the outreach symposium, and managed to evade a severe snowstorm by just one day. If the room count at our current meeting was a bit of a cliffhanger, Nikki went through similar nailbiting moments at that meeting, but her dogged, tenacious, and skillful negotiating saved the financial "posterior" of the Division.
Nikki couldn't be here today, so we are awarding this Distinguished Service Award in absentia, but let us all join in a round of applause for Dr. Nichole O'Neill