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DAA: Lynda M. Cuiffetti

Lynda M. Cuiffetti

Corvallis, OR | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2014

Lynda Ciuffetti, Ph.D. ‘83, has been the head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University since 2008. The long-term goal of her research is a complete molecular description of factors that account for the ability of microorganisms to cause plant disease. Specifically, her lab is investigating the molecular mechanisms in the Pyrenophora tritici-repentis-wheat interaction. But throughout her career, Ciuffetti has also excelled as a teacher. She has received no fewer than 10 awards for teaching undergraduate cellular and molecular biology courses. In 1996 Ciuffetti received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, which supports research and novel educational activities. She was named Fellow of the American Pytopathological Society in 2011 and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012. “Her talent for teaching and her dedication to students were immediately evident at Oregon State,” said her nominator, Peter Goldsbrough, head of Purdue’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? What made it so difficult for you? I don’t recall any particular class being the most difficult. As a Ph.D. student, one takes their course work very seriously and you anticipate a rigorous curriculum. I do, however, recall with great admiration two courses: plant pathology taught by Dr. John Tuite, and plant virology taught by Drs. Richard Lister and Andy Jackson. The reason I mention these two classes is that both had Saturday labs and these labs lasted most of the day. It seems strange that I would look fondly on those Saturday labs, but the interactions, discussions, and camaraderie during those lab sessions was very special and critical, I believe, to our development as scientists. What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Who gave you the advice? Dr. E.B. Williams provided the following quote: “illegitimi non carborundum.” When I realized what this mock-Latin aphorism referred to, I really had to smile. Over the years I have often recalled the incident when E.B. was sitting in the media room having his coffee and he made that statement just prior to me going into my Ph.D. defense. I still smile at his wisdom! What is the best advice you have ever given? A piece of advice I give to all individuals in our lab is a piece of wisdom from Dr. Barbara Mcclintock. I always encourage them to develop a feel for their organism, to spend the time necessary to observe and know the organism that they are studying. To the thousands of undergraduate students and also the graduate students I have taught over the years, the most valuable piece of advice I have given is to make sure they approach their studies in a way that they are the ones making the decisions for their futures and not a lack of success in their studies that makes the decisions for them.