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I. E. Melhus Graduate Student Symposium

An APS committee, in conjunction with financial support from the APS Foundation, sponsors the
I. E. Melhus Graduate Student Symposium held each year at the APS Annual Meeting. The symposium features graduate student research around a central theme which changes annually. Invited speakers receive a financial award to be applied toward the cost attending the virtual 2021 APS Annual Meeting. This award is funded by the APS Foundation and the I. E. Melhus Graduate Student Symposium Fund.

Applicants must be APS members in good standing and currently enrolled as a graduate student or have completed their graduate program within 12 months of the current APS annual meeting date. All APS student members with thesis research projects related to this year's theme  are encouraged to submit applications.​

Selected recipients are expected to give a 30-minute presentation at the virtual 2021 APS Annual Meeting.

Research Description

Applications must contain a written description of the research project, stating the goals, methodology, results, and significance of the applicant's thesis research. Applications should not exceed five single-spaced pages (excluding tables and figures).

Letters of Nomination

Two letters of nomination are required, one of which must be submitted by the applicant's major professor. Letters of nomination must include evaluations of the applicant's research and ability to present the research in a clear and effective manner. Letters of nomination may be submitted separately by the letter writer using the Letter of Recommendation Form.

All of the above required materials must be included in one PDF document and submitted through the Award Application Form on or before February 15. Letters of recommendation may be submitted separately by the letter writer using the Letter of Recommendation Form.

Submit Application​

Speakers will be chosen by an ad hoc selection committee comprised of APS committee members and an external reviewer chosen by the APS Foundation. Participants will be selected competitively, based on research significance and potential impact.


Dr. Irving E. Melhus was a renowned teacher, innovative researcher, and outstanding departmental administrator at Iowa State College (ISC). Indeed, he was a true pioneer among plant pathologists. When, in 1912, he earned his Ph.D. degree under the guidance of L. R. Jones at the University of Wisconsin, he was the first person from Wisconsin to be awarded a doctorate in plant pathology. During a four-year stint with the USDA’s Office of Vegetable Crop Diseases, between 1912 and 1916, Dr. Melhus showed that the pathogen responsible for late blight of potato, Phytophthora infestans, overwinters in the tubers. In 1918, as an assistant professor at ISC, Dr. Melhus was among the early leaders of a nationwide effort to control stem rust through the eradication of the common barberry. Later, he would produce classic work on soilborne pathogens of Iowa crops that led directly to the use of several new or improved disease control methods.

In 1937, he and G. C. Kent wrote The Elements of Plant Pathology. From 1929 to 1946, Dr. Melhus served as chair of the school’s Botany Department, during which time he was instrumental in leading the department to national prominence. In 1946, Dr. Melhus founded the ISC-Guatemala Tropical Research Center for the study of corn improvement. This was the first overseas experiment station operated by a U.S. university, and Dr. Melhus led the program during its formative years between 1946 and 1953. A hybrid developed at the station continues to be the most widely cultivated corn in Guatemala.

Dr. Melhus was a recognized leader among his colleagues. He served as president of APS in 1926 and was elected a fellow of APS in 1965. Additionally, he was a member of the Iowa Academy of Sciences, the Botanical Society of America, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Melhus married Elizabeth Williamson on December 26, 1907. They had two daughters, Sarah (Hoyman) and Janet (Wallin). He died on November 10, 1969, in Ames, IA.

Donate to the I. E. Melhus Fund!

Feb 15

Fincial support for virtual meeting registration fees to Plant Health 2021.