Biomedical Sciences Researcher Scott Earley and Plant Biologist John McKay Named Colorado State Monfort Professors

Cardiovascular researcher Scott Earley and John McKay, a plant biologist, were named Colorado State University Monfort Professors on Wednesday. The recognition was made during the Celebrate! Colorado State awards ceremony.

The Monfort Professor Award was established in 2002 through a gift from the Monfort Family Foundation. Nominations for the Monfort Professor Award come from each of the university’s eight colleges. The final selections are made by a committee that looks for individuals who embody the philosophies of Colorado State and have made an impact at the university and on a larger scale in their field. Recipients are often nominated by colleagues from Colorado State and other universities who recognize their contributions.

Scott Earley

Earley is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. His studies have significant importance for understanding blood flow regulation and a how to treat cardiovascular-related diseases, the leading cause of death in the United States. Earley’s laboratory is developing a greater understanding of how transient receptor potential channels influence the function of smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, and astrocytes, as part of his overall studies in cardiovascular physiology. He also is interested in how blood vessel function is influenced by factors produced by the vascular endothelium (the thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels). A great understanding of these aspects of cardiovascular physiology may help to develop new therapies for heart disease.

He has rapidly established himself as an innovative researcher in the field and publishes in high-impact journals. His work has attracted national and international attention. His educational background includes degrees in electrical engineering, microbiology and biomedical sciences.

Previously, Earley has been recognized as a Fellow of the American Heart Association, and with the Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence, among other recognitions. He currently chairs the departments’s Frontiers in Biomedical Sciences Seminar committee and serves on the Cell and Molecular Biology research committee and Faculty Council. He also is a past organizing committee member for the 2011 national Smooth Muscle Underground conference and currently services on the organizing committee for the International Society of Resistance Arteries Conference, the editorial board of Frontiers of Vasular Biology, and several grant review committees. Earley’s research is currently funded by two National Institutes of Health grants.

“Dr. Earley has established himself as a highly effective biomedical educator who clearly invests himself in exceptional mentoring of his students,” said Dr. Lance Perryman, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “He has distinguished himself through research accomplishments and publications which have been cited extensively by other investigators. In addition, he is an outstanding citizen of his department, college, university and research community.”

John McKay

McKay is an associate professor of Bioagricultural Sciences in CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. His research focuses on plant biology. Early in his career, McKay made significant contributions to plant biology, particularly in the area of plant adaptation. He uniquely integrates his expertise in fundamentals of plant ecology, physiology and evolution to address plant adaptation to climate. His focus on abiotic stresses is leading to fundamental insights into drought stress tolerance mechanisms, a critical problem for agriculture.

“Dr. McKay’s contributions and achievements have spanned active research in multiple disciplines of plant ecology, genomics, genetics, physiology and evolution,” said Jan Leach, University Distinguished Professor at CSU. “His work is characterized by tremendous scientific scope and depth that integrates field and lab studies. Dr. McKay is generous with his comprehensive knowledge and tremendous passion for science, and this benefits his students, post docs, and collaborators as well as our community.”

McKay changed the traditional ecology and evolutionary biology fields by integrating concepts and techniques from genetics, plant physiology, genomics, ecology and evolution to understand plants adaptations to changes in environment. He is nationally and internationally recognized because of his extensive knowledge and because he seamlessly links these areas to understand how genetic changes relate to physiology changes, and how these changes impact plant evolution.

McKay is an excellent teacher, mentor and citizen of the academic community. He developed and taught three graduate-level courses since joining CSU: Molecular and Genome Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology, and Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance.

McKay is a very active mentor for undergraduate students. He and colleague Stephen Chisholm developed and coordinate a Biological Summer Undergraduate Research Enrichment program. In this program, students participate in independent laboratory research complemented by mentoring and peer interactions to develop presentation skills, laboratory techniques and experimental design skills. In addition, McKay has led a plant science outreach effort at a local elementary school that annually exposes thousands of K-12 students and their parents to plant science topics.

McKay has received numerous awards and recognition recently, including: one of 20 invited participants to New Phytologist Workshop: Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics of Plant Adaptation in the United Kingdom; featured speaker at the 2011 Keystone Meeting on Plant Abiotic Stress Tolerance Mechanisms, Water and Global; featured speaker at the 8th Annual Ecological Genomics Symposium in 2010; and 2009 Community Science Outreach Award from Putnam Elementary School in Fort Collins.

More about the Monfort Professor Award
The Monfort Professor designation is a two-year designation. The 2011-13 Monfort Professors named last year are Christian Puttlitz, a professor in the College of Engineering, and Jennifer DeLuca, College of Natural Sciences professor.