CAST Announces Kevin Folta as Winner of the 2016 Borlaug CAST Communication Award

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Accomplished Scientist and Professor Is Praised for His Communication Skills

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The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) announces that the prestigious 2016 Borlaug CAST Communication Award goes to Dr. Kevin Folta, Chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). A teacher, mentor, researcher, and organizer, Folta focuses on clear, credible information. He knows how to communicate science to non-scientific audiences—and how to train scientists, farmers, physicians, and students to perform public outreach in scientific or controversial topics.

As a Department Chair, Folta provides statewide administrative leadership in the University of Florida’s teaching, research, and extension fruit and vegetable programs. He coordinates and supports faculty efforts in more than 50 research programs at seven locations, ranging from citrus breeding and biotechnology to organic and sustainable production. His laboratory examines how plants sense light signals and how different parts of the light spectrum can affect shelf life and high-value fruit and vegetable traits. His group also uses novel genomics approaches to identify genes related to flavor and disease resistance.

Communicating about science is a driving force for Folta. His blog (Illumination) covers recent events at the interface between society and science, and his weekly podcast (Talking Biotech) discusses genetic improvements in agriculture and medicine.

Folta received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Northern Illinois University, a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin. His curriculum vitae is filled with impressive publications, presentations, and awards—including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Award for undergraduate mentoring, the University of Florida Research Foundation Award, and the University of Florida Postdoctoral Mentoring Award.

With his abilities to engage diverse audiences about anything related to science, Folta is a sought-after speaker at workshops, conferences, podcasts, television shows, and radio broadcasts across the country and around the world. He also designed a communication workshop that teaches scientists how to properly engage a skeptical public. Many supporters agree with Julie Borlaug’s statement: “He has not shied away from controversial subjects and has often been the number one target of the anti-science movement on behalf of all of us who support biotechnology.”

Folta devised a professional development program for postdoctoral researchers—assisting them in the fundamentals of grant writing, application preparation, interviewing, and professional presentation. As one of his students said, “He taught me that my science could go beyond tables and figures to help someone understand the joy of discovery.”

Although he is an accomplished scientist, Folta is respected by his peers and many others for his ability to communicate in a polite, thoughtful, and provocative manner. As one colleague stated, “He treats everyone with tremendous respect. He often transforms conflict-riddled situations into true learning moments.” With his passion for science, knowledge, and understanding, Dr. Folta is a worthy recipient of the Borlaug CAST Communication Award.

An award presentation will occur at a breakfast side event cohosted by DuPont and CAST at the World Food Prize Symposium on October 12, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. The Borlaug CAST Communication Award honors the legacies of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug and Dr. Charles A. Black, the first president of CAST.

Contact: Kent Schescke, CAST Executive Vice President
Phone: 515-292-2125, ext. 231; E-mail: kschescke(at)cast-science(dot)org

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