Internationally recognized researchers in integrated pest management and biofuels are being recognized as the 2020-2021 Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award recipients at Kansas State University.

This year’s winners are Tom Phillips, professor of entomology, and Donghai Wang, professor of biological and agricultural engineering.

The award, supported by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation and coordinated by the K-State Graduate School, honors current members of the graduate faculty who are recognized nationally and internationally for their outstanding scholarly achievements and their contributions to graduate education at the university. Award recipients receive an honorarium and will deliver public lectures on their research to the campus community.

“Drs. Phillips and Wang exemplify why Commerce Bank and the W.T. Kemper Foundation have long supported this award to recognize Kansas State University’s most outstanding graduate faculty,” said Shawn Drew, market president and CEO of Commerce Bank, Manhattan. “Both are world-class researchers and teachers and we are honored to recognize them for their outstanding work.”

As a world leader in research and applications of integrated management of stored product pests, Phillips’ expertise in chemical ecology and insect behavior have contributed to his success in designing monitoring and mating disruption systems for insects. Insects account for more than half of human food that is lost postharvest in developing countries. Phillips’ development of holistic management systems addresses this critical issue related to food security.

Phillips’ research has been supported by more than $9 million in grants and has led to the publication of 164 journal articles and 15 books or book chapters. He has given numerous research presentations, including approximately 80 invited talks.

Among Phillips’ significant contributions to graduate education at K-State include advising or co-advising 13 master’s and 15 doctoral students who have been successfully employed in academia and industry, with many now national or international leaders in their fields. Phillips promotes graduate student professional development, encouraging students to participate in professional conferences and outreach activities as well as to seek funding and engage in networking activities.

Phillips earned his doctorate in biology with a concentration in entomology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He joined K-State’s entomology department in 2007. His work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Certificate of Merit, Wendell E. Burkholder Award for Excellence in Stored Product Protection and the New Product Development Award from the Entomological Society of America. He was named the Donald Wilbur Sr. endowed professor for stored product protection at K-State.

Wang has established an internationally known research program on bioconversion of renewable materials into biofuels and chemicals. He has conducted fundamental and applied research to overcome technical barriers for cost-effective production of biofuels from both starch-based feedstocks such as corn, sorghum and millets, and cellulosic biomass such as grass, crop residues and woody biomass. Wang also collaborates with materials scientists to develop biodegradable protein-based adhesives and oil-based resins.

Wang has served as principal investigator on more than 40 projects and co-principal investigator for more than 30 projects. This funded work has exceeded $23 million, with about $5.5 million in direct support of his research. He has authored or co-authored 199 peer-reviewed journal articles and 15 book chapters and holds three U.S. patents.

Among Wang’s contributions to graduate education at K-State include advising or co-advising 11 master’s and 21 doctoral students. Eight of his previous doctoral students are employed as faculty at universities or as research scientists or engineers at large industries. Since 2002, Wang also has contributed to graduate education through his service on the biological and agricultural engineering graduate committee.

Wang earned his doctorate in biological and agricultural engineering from Texas A&M University. He joined K-State’s Carl and Melinda Helwig Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in 2001. Wang’s research has earned several national and international awards from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers; U.S. Department of Agriculture Certificate of Appreciation Award; and the Frankenhoff Outstanding Research Award from the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at K-State.

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