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Hatzios succeeds Moore at PPWS department

By Stewart MacInnis

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 29 - April 24, 1997

When Kriton K. Hatzios settled behind his new desk in 413 Price Hall, he knew much of his energy will be spent on taking the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science into a new century.

But that wasn't a daunting vision, because the department Hatzios now heads is itself full of energy, enthusiasm, and promise.

At the same time that Hatzios moved into his new office, Laurence D. Moore settled into a teaching and student-recruitment position, secure in the knowledge that he left a solid foundation upon which Hatzios can build. After more than 12 years as department head, Moore says he expects to see a significant change in pace for himself after dealing with administrative matters during a period of ever-tightening budgets.

"We went from a time with generous operating budgets and raises for faculty members to a very difficult period," says Moore. "The word `challenge' comes to mind."

A member of Virginia Tech's faculty since 1965, Moore says he has witnessed tremendous change in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and in the university.

"We've been removing barriers between departments," he says. "Now we've got research, teaching, and public-service programs that don't know any departmental boundaries. This has become very noticeable in the last 10 years."

The department has no undergraduate program, but faculty members are engaged with undergraduates by teaching courses in the common core for biological sciences as well as advising undergraduates in other departments.

"The whole university changed from a primary focus on research and Extension to a focus on undergraduate teaching, graduate teaching and research, Extension, and public service," he said.

The changes brought opportunities as well as challenges. Moore said he is especially proud of faculty members in the department.

Not a single faculty member, he notes, is untenured; a number of outstanding faculty members were hired during the last 12 years; and the racial and gender makeup of the faculty has become more diverse.

"I was very fortunate that we only had one person retire in the past five years, during the time of the most severe budget constraints," Moore said. "The faculty has a lot of loyalty to the groups it works with, to the college, and to the department. And its been a really wonderful experience to see people I've hired get promoted to associate and full professor."

Moore also spearheaded a college-wide effort to recruit more minority students. He plans to continue his leadership of that program, which is credited with bringing some outstanding graduate students to the college.

Hatzios sees Moore's successful administration of the department as providing strengths he wants to reinforce. Those strengths give the department a good platform from which to step into the next century.

Hatzios wants to engage the agrichemical industry, commodity groups, and other agencies in the department's activity, with an eye toward gaining additional financial support for scholarships and research. He wants to more fully integrate new technologies in the workings of the department. He wants to continue the recruiting of high-quality graduate students. And he wants to continue the department's involvement in the university's biological sciences initiative.

"We've been very successful in this department," he said. "I want to keep our competitive edge. My overall vision for the department is that we will be one of the best departments in the country offering research, teaching, and extension programs in plant pathology, weed science, and plant-stress physiology."

That will mean collaboration with researchers in other departments to do such things as develop new varieties of crop plants that are resistant to pests and diseases. He expects the department to address the international aspects of agriculture while continuing its commitment to the agriculture industry of the state.

Among the issues Hatzios sees the department addressing: feeding the increasing population of the world, addressing the emerging needs of urban agriculture, integrated pest management, and supporting innovative uses of plant biotechnology.

Hatzios joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1979 after earning his doctorate at the Michigan State University. He is recognized as a leading researcher in the area of chemical manipulation of crop tolerance to herbicides as well as in the areas of herbicide action and metabolism. He has authored or co-authored well over 100 research articles, books or book chapters, reviews, and monographs.

He has received numerous awards, including the Southern Weed Science Society's 1997 Scientist of the Year Award, the Weed Science Society of America's 1995 Fellow Award, the Weed Science Society of America's 1994 Outstanding Research Award, that organization's 1986 Outstanding Young Weed Scientist Award, and the 1985 Faculty Research Award from the Virginia Tech chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the honor society of agriculture.