WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has named three agricultural scientists as winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. They are Joseph E. Jakes, USDA, U.S. Forest Service; Ian Kaplan, Purdue University; and Christina L. Swaggerty, USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Dr. Ian Kaplan's research on pests and beneficial insects in plant systems was funded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Kaplan was honored for his outstanding work on insect predator ecology and plant-insect interactions in specialty crops. Kaplan's research is significant because it may lead to the use of environmentally safe chemical compounds derived from plants. This proactive approach could enhance the impacts of biological control agents to manage crop pests. Kaplan's research was funded through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Dr. Joseph Jakes is a research materials engineer at the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory and a University of Wisconsin graduate. His expertise is in the development and employment of methodology to understand material properties at the nanoscale. In forest products research, his efforts are leading to improved wood adhesives and the development of new high performance wood-based composite materials, including those utilizing nanocellulose. Ultimately, Jakes' goal is the development of new and improved forest products that lead to the efficient utilization and management of forest resources.

Dr. Christina L. Swaggerty, a member of the USDA ARS Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, College Station, Texas, conducts research to enhance the safety, security and wholesomeness of the U.S. food supply. Swaggerty's research has employed a functional genomics approach to identify key innate immune genes in chickens that are associated with increased resistance against Salmonella and Campylobacter, the two leading causes of foodborne enteritis in the world.

PECASE nominees are selected for their innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology. Nominees show exceptional potential to shape the future through intellectual and inspired leadership. Educational activities reflect a spirit of community service to help understand the nature and implications of scientific research.

Each day, the work of USDA scientists and researchers touches the lives of every American, from the farm field to the kitchen table, from the air we breathe to the energy that powers our nation. USDA science is on the cutting edge, helping protect, secure, and improve our food, agriculture and natural resources. No matter where you look, USDA science is on the cutting edge, helping improve American agriculture, providing insight into our health and nutrition, and protecting our natural resources. For over 100 years, USDA scientists and research funding have supported the farmers and ranchers who produce a safe and abundant food supply for our families.

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