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Gary A. Payne was born in Highpoint, NC. He received his B.S. degree in agronomy from North Carolina State University, an M.S. and Ph.D. in plant pathology from Cornell University. After a short post-doc in Dr. J. M. Daly’s laboratory at the University of Nebraska in 1978, he accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University. He was promoted to associate professor in 1985 and to professor in 1990.

The primary goal of Dr. Payne’s research is to alleviate aflatoxin contamination problems in corn and other crops. His approach to this problem utilizes a diversity of strategies from studies on the epidemiology of fungal infection, study of fundamental biology and genetics of the fungus, and study of its toxin biosynthesis pathway. Dr. Payne’s early work focused on the importance of preharvest infection in aflatoxin contamination in corn. He has also conducted extensive studies on nutritional and environmental factors that influence aflatoxin accumulation.

His most exciting work has focused on gaining understanding and basic information on the biosynthetic pathway for aflatoxin. He and his associates developed a genetic transformation system that has allowed them to isolate and characterize genes in the aflatoxin biosynthesis pathway and to determine their regulation. Another important aspect of Dr. Payne’s research focuses on the development of molecular tools for screening corn germ plasm for resistance to A. flavus and to aflatoxin accumulation. These studies have led to the identification of two inhibitors, one that suppresses fungal growth and the other that interferes with aflatoxin accumulation. Dr. Payne has also been instrumental in developing A. flavus as a model genetic system.

In addition to Dr. Payne’s outstanding research contributions, he has excelled in the classroom and as a student adviser. He is currently an active participant in two graduate training grant programs on his campus. He has also been highly effective in serving as the primary adviser for 12 graduate thesis projects as well as working with a similar number of postdocs and visiting scientists. He has served as associate editor for Phytopathology and currently serves on the editorial board of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. In addition to serving on review panels of a number of competitive grants programs, he served as the plant pathology panel manager for the USDA-NRI competitive grants program.