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POD (Phytopathologists of Distinction) Talks

Connect with selected APS fellows, in an informal setting, as they discuss their career journey and share “their story,” insights, and life experiences in the world of plant pathology.


A Conversation with Phytopathologists of Distinction:
Jim Cook and Allison Tally

2:45—4:00 p.m.

Jim Cook: “From Farmer to a Farmer’s Scientist”

Jim Cook, Dean & Professor Emeritus, Washington State University

Jim Cook

Jim’s Story: Growing up on a farm and the oldest of eight siblings, I learned first-hand about farming at an early age. My intension to be a farmer began to change during my second year at North Dakota State University when got a job with ARS plant pathologist Roland Timian. I loved chemistry and could now envision a career in science, a decision finalized when my fiancée announced that she did not intend to live on a farm. After an undergraduate major in agronomy, I am the first to receive a graduate degree in plant pathology at NDSU. At UC Berkeley, I did my PhD thesis under W. C. Snyder on Fusarium root rot of beans. This set me on a course of research on soil borne plant pathogens, crediting my background in agronomy and growing up on a farm that led to my book Untold Stories: Forty Years of Field Research on Root Diseases of Wheat.

Allison Tally: “Corporate Plant Pathologist—Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of None”

Allison Tally, Syngenta Technical Lead (retired), Greensboro, NC

Allison Tally

Allison’s Story: When I finished college, I knew I liked plants but was unsure what that meant for my future career. With intentions of conducting environmental impact assessments, my grad advisor suggested a plant pathology class and I was hooked! While my research projects included both basic and applied aspects, my long-term goal became clear - a career in industry. To facilitate that, I made as many contacts as I could while assisting in field trials. The timing was good as companies were 'diversifying.' "She's not afraid to get dirty" was one of the key selling points! With hands-on experience with weed and insect control as well as disease management, I understood many of the challenges and practices of growers. Being willing to learn, by stepping up to challenges, knowing when to 'agree to disagree', and keeping to commitments, enabled a very rewarding career as a plant pathologist in the corporate world. During 34 years in industry, there have been some great successes, a few disappointments, but never a dull moment - there was simply no time!


A Conversation with Phytopathologists of Distinction:
Charlie Delp and Sue Tolin

1:00—2:15 p.m.

Charlie Delp: “Phytophthora: The Full Circle of My Career"

Charlie Delp, DuPont Senior Research Scientist at E. I. du Pont de Nemour

Jim Cook

Charlie’s Story: My excitement with Phythphora infestans caught the attention of a botany professor at Colorado A&M. Following his advice to pursue a PhD in plant pathology at UC Davis led to 32 years as a research scientist with the DuPont Company. Our discovery of systemic fungicides sparked international interest when I introduced Benlate® at the 1st International Congress for Plant Pathology in 1968. The creation of industries’ Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) entailed working with “competitive scientists.” Serving as secretary of APS, my professional family, and organizing OIP was rewarding. After retirement, I was an AAAS Congressional Science Fellow on the House Committee on Hunger, and conducted Fungicide Resistance Management Workshops on four continents. Volunteering in the U.S. Peace Corps in Samoa to get them back into production after devastation by Taro Leaf Blight – Phytophthora colocasiae was the satisfying culmination to a career enriched by professional contacts near and far.

Sue Tolin: “A Variable Viral Career”

Sue Tolin, Professor Emerita, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Jim Cook

Sue’s Story: I’ve always had an interest in agriculture, being raised on a small farm in rural Indiana, along with cows, pigs, chickens, plants and siblings. I followed my father to Purdue where I found an agricultural science major, but not without admonitions that it was too rigorous and girls just didn’t enter this field. My advisor plant pathologist Ralph Shay steered me through grad-school prep courses, and suggested I might go into virology. Shay and John Bancroft helped me find a fit with Myron Brakke at Nebraska in 1960. In looking back, I feel I was “present at the flood” as TMV structure, infectious RNA and the genetic code had just come out. After my first APS meeting, I was hooked on virology and plant pathology. My career gave me opportunities to explore virus identity and management globally, advance diagnostics, apply genomics to host resistance, and have the freedom to delve into public policy and regulatory affairs of concern to plant pathologists through activities with USDA and APS.