Prof wins coveted national plant science award

A Brock professor whose research examines molecular aspects of disease resistance in plants has been recognized for his work in plant biology.

Charles Després, an associate professor of Biological Sciences, was recently presented with the 2011 CD Nelson Award from the Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists.

Charles Deprés

Charles Deprés

The award, established in 1977, recognizes the best emerging Canadian researchers active in the area of plant biology. Després is the 23rd recipient to receive the award in its 34-year history.

“This award is important because it demonstrates that excellent research can be conducted in small universities,” Després said.

The activities of Després’ research group at Brock are breaking new scientific ground in identifying detailed molecular processes that activate common plant defense responses.

“The work coming out of his lab has already had an enormous impact on our understanding of basic disease resistance mechanisms of plants,” said Rick Cheel, Interim Dean, Faculty of Mathematics and Science.

Knowledge about these defense systems will help boost innate disease resistance in plants, thus producing crops that require fewer applications of pesticides. This research could impact the development of sustainable and disease-resistant crops, which will also result in cleaner soils and water, and safer food.

Després joined the Department of Biological Sciences in April 2002 as a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Molecular Plant Pathology. During his tenure as CRC from 2002 to 2007, he obtained a five-year Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant valued at close to $250,000 to set up his lab, conduct research and train graduate students. It was the largest grant given to a new applicant in plant biology in that competition.

In April 2007, his grant was renewed for another five years at $290,000.

In 2012, Després and his lab will move to the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, which will provide additional space for advanced research at the University and be a magnet for some of the country’s top graduate students.

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