Plant Biologist Janis Antonovics Wins International Research Award

July 13, 2012 — Janis Antonovics, Lewis and Clark Professor of Biology in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences, has been named the recipient of a Humboldt Research Award to study in Germany.

The award, which comes with 60,000 euros (about $73,000), is given in recognition of lifetime achievements in research. In addition, the awardee is invited to carry out research projects of his or her choosing in cooperation with specialist colleagues in Germany.

German scientist Matthias C. Rillig nominated Antonovics for the award, and the two will work together in Rillig's laboratory in the Dahlem Center of Plant Sciences at the Free University of Berlin.

In general, Antonovics' research concerns the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease in natural populations, including host-pathogen systems.

"We will be examining the interface between parasitism and mutualism in plant-fungal interactions, asking what evolutionary and ecological factors determine whether fungi have beneficial or detrimental effects on the plants that they colonize," Antonovics said. "The work will involve theoretical modeling, in addition to experiments with naturally occurring soil fungi and the plant communities in which they are found."

On the side, he will continue historical studies on the contribution of German biologists to population genetics in the first half of the 20th century, he said.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is an organization for German foreign cultural and academic exchange to promote international scientific cooperation. Every year, the Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time working in Germany. The foundation maintains a network of more than 25,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 130 countries worldwide, including 48 Nobel Prize winners.