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​​2022 William Boright Hewitt and Maybelle Ellen Ball Hewitt Award​​

This award recognizes a scientist within seven years of their Ph.D. degree who has made an outstanding, innovative contribution directed toward the control of plant disease.

Lindsey Thiessen was born in Oklahoma and grew up in central Texas. She obtained a B.S. degree in zoology at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, in 2009, where she began to develop an interest in microbiology and disease epidemiology. During this time, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant in cotton genomics, learning basic lab sciences. After completing her B.S. degree, she began working as a research technician at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service station in Lubbock, TX, where she worked on diseases and nematodes of cotton, peanut, and other crops in the region and found her niche studying plant diseases. She continued her education at Texas Tech University, studying peanut diseases in West Texas, and earned an M.S. degree in crop and soil science in 2012. Throughout her education at Texas Tech University, she was continually intrigued by the intersection of basic and applied research. She then pursued a Ph.D. degree in botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University, focusing on the overwintering biology of grape powdery mildew and developing biosurveillance methods to monitor epidemics. In 2016, she was appointed an assistant professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University. Her extension and research on emerging and invasive pathogens inspired her to transition to a career with USDA APHIS as a staff scientist with the Domestic and Emergency Scientific Support program, focusing on citrus health and emerging invasive pest and pathogen threats. Her careers efforts in research, extension, and regulatory fields have been extremely productive, with national and international impacts.

In under five years as a faculty member at NC State University, Thiessen had one of the largest and most comprehensive research and Extension programs in the department, providing clear applications and management strategies from the lab to the field. Her crop responsibilities included tobacco, corn, soybean, cotton, and small grains, the major crops grown in North Carolina. These crops are grown from North Carolina’s mountains to the coast and together comprise more than 1.3 million ha of harvested cropland in the state. She has published 66 peer-reviewed articles and reports and presented 146 invited presentations. She has interacted closely with producers and presented at over 139 stakeholder and county meetings and field days. She has been creative in reaching her stakeholders, generating web and video-based Extension resources to provide diverse mechanisms for dissemination, including 12 training videos, 44 disease fact sheets, and 42 online publications. Additionally, she has participated inthe NC State Plant Disease and Insect Clinic, providing diagnoses and recommendations for over 1,350 samples, an unmatched number of samples for any specialist in the department. North Carolina farmers have continued to seek high-value alternative crops, and Thiessen sees this as an opportunity to support her stakeholders through disease diagnosis and management development in hemp and stevia. Because of her expertise in hemp, she is working as an editor and author of the APS hemp compendium.

Thiessen’s work with emerging pathogens has earned the appreciation and respect of the scientific community and her Extension stakeholders. Her efforts have been critical in addressing the management and spread of the Meloidogyne enterolobii. This invasive nematode threatens economically important crops and overcomes all known host resistance genes for root knot nematode control. Thiessen’s team quickly responded to this pest with research addressing management in field crops and tobacco, including chemical control, cultural practices, and screening for host resistance or tolerance. These efforts have provided critical management strategies for farmers that can limit yield losses by up to 80%. Her expertise on this topic has led to invitations to be a co-PI in a $3.25 million USDA SCRI multistate project to reduce losses in vegetable and rotational crops caused by M. enterolobii. Her current efforts involve the administration of research for the Citrus Health Response Program and Boxwood Blight, emergency support for Box Tree Moth, and acting as a liaison for the National Pest Advisory Group, which monitors potential and emerging invasive threats to the United States. This work is integral to preventing movement of pathogens into the United States​ and to them becoming endemic in regions that significantly impact U.S. agriculture.

Thiessen is also dedicated to improving the plant pathology discipline through her leadership, education, and outreach activities. Thiessen has served as chair of the Mycology and the Soil Microbiology & Root Diseases Committees and was a developer of CADRE content (now the Professional Development Center). She has also participated in organizing and conducting a morphological ID of fungi workshop at the APS Annual Meeting in 2016. She has further taken on leadership roles in APS, acting as the president of the APS Southern Division in 2022 and was president of the Plant Pathology Society of NC from 2017 to 2018. She actively participates in training new generations of plant pathologists, supervising and mentoring 6 graduate students, 10 undergraduate students, and serving on committees for 7 graduate students. She continues to be an active member of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology as an adjunct faculty member. She is also dedicated to engaging with a diverse background of students interested in STEAM, having participated in the Kelman Scholar’s program for undergraduate students, the NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 3D program for at-risk high school students, and elementary outreach programs to engage young minds in the sciences. Additionally, she has taught guest lectures in NC State’s graduate and undergraduate programs and participates in outreach events, sharing plant science and mycology activities. Her dedication to the discipline of plant pathology and sharing that joy with others will help to drive the profession forward.

Thiessen is skillful and passionate at translating research to stakeholders, including complex data and fundamental research objectives that can benefit producers. Furthermore, this skill is now being used at a national level to communicate and analyze risk of invasive pest and pathogens. Lindsey Thiessen is an excellent candidate to receive recognition for her many early career achievements via the William Boright Hewitt and Maybelle Ellen Ball Hewitt Award.