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Botany Program, Professor Take Home Multiple National Honors

A Growing Field at SUNY Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Aug. 18, 2010) – When it comes to botany, Dr. Chris Martine and his students from SUNY Plattsburgh are racking up the honors.The associate professor of biological sciences was one of only two faculty worldwide to receive this year's Charles Edwin Bessey Teaching Award from the Botanical Society of America. Martine is, in fact, the first faculty member from the State University of New York to ever receive this honor.

But that's not all. This year, out of the six students chosen for the Botanical Society of America's Undergraduate Research Awards, three were SUNY Plattsburgh students working under Martine. They were Alex Scharf '10, an environmental studies major who is cultivating and studying a rare eggplant Martine helped discover; Sasha Dow-Kitson '10, a biology major working to gain a better understanding of European frogbit, an invasive species; and Elizabeth "Betty" Lavoie '10, who is working to analyze the DNA of a second eggplant species – one that she co-discovered with Martine and his team.

The awards don't end there: Lavoie and Jillian Post, a senior environmental science major and art minor, were both named Young Botanists of the Year by the Botanical Society of America. This is the third year in a row that SUNY Plattsburgh students have come to hold this honor. It goes to between 15 and 25 outstanding undergraduate students from all over North America.

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Higgins felt that Martine was a good choice for the teaching award.

"Dr. Bessey was renowned for developing botanical education in the United States," Higgins said. "It is, therefore, fitting that Dr. Martine should be one of this year's recipients of this award. His passion for and skills as a teacher/scholar of botany are commendable."

Chris Martine and students"I am thrilled to receive this honor from the BSA, but it is even more pleasing to see the recognition given to the students," Martine said. "I wouldn't be doing much teaching or mentoring if there weren't students in my classrooms and research lab who were willing to learn about and engage in botanical science."

But, Martine feels that, for his students, the chance to be a part of the larger science community was even more important than the awards were.

"The students winning these awards is a great thing, for sure — but it was more important to their growth as young scientists that they also made it to a national scientific conference attended by the top plant scientists in the world," Martine said. "I think the students now see that it's not the awards that make them scientists: it's the research itself. The conference showed them that there is a whole community of people out there uncovering the mysteries of the world, and, much to their gratification, these students are now a part of it."

Videos of Martine's students discussing their work are available for viewing at http://bit.ly/EuropeanFrogbit and http://bit.ly/RareResearch.

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