October 2, 2014  

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Southern Miss Professor Bates Wins Prestigious Scientific Award

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Dr. Philip Bates

University of Southern Mississippi Assistant Professor Philip Bates finds himself in elite company as the winner of the 2014 Paul K. Stumpf Award  -- presented biannually to exceptional scientists in plant lipid research.

Bates accepted the honor during the International Symposium on Plant Lipids (ISPL) held earlier this month in Guelph, Canada. As the Stumpf Award recipient, Bates was invited to present a lecture on his research.

“I was excited upon learning that I had been chosen for this award because this is a very big honor in my field, and there are many other worthy candidates,” said Bates, now in his second year in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Southern Miss. “I am also honored because I feel like I am a part of Dr. Stumpf’s legacy.”

Paul K. Stumpf, who died in 2007, is the recognized father of plant lipid (fats and oils) research. A renowned biochemist, Stumpf trained many students who went on to become leaders in the field, while publishing more than 250 research papers over four decades. Among his achievements was the discovery in plants of the alpha-oxidation pathway for degrading fatty acids. Genetic defects in the same pathway in animals are linked to rare hereditary diseases.

The award is presented to scientists who have held doctoral degrees for six years or less. Bates bested a global pool of candidates to earn the prestigious distinction.

“We are very excited that our own Phil Bates is the fourth recipient and the first American scientist to have won this prestigious international award,” said Dr. Sabine Heinhorst, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “That Dr. Bates has received this award is an indication of the high regard he enjoys among his international colleagues. We are very fortunate to have him at USM and look forward to the advances in research he and his students will make here in the years to come.”

A native of Napa, Calif., Bates earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Davis and his doctorate from Michigan State University. Before joining the faculty at Southern Miss, he conducted post-doctoral research at Washington State University.

Bates and his research team are focused on deciphering how plants make different kinds of oils. Understanding how plants control the fatty acid composition of seed oils can unlock pathways to better uses for these oils in food, biofuels and the chemical industry.

A scientific Advisory Committee comprised of experts in the biochemistry field selected Bates for the Stumpf Award – a fact that he says helps validate the team’s research efforts.

“Southern Miss is not a land grant college focusing on plant/agriculture research, but this shows that high-quality plant biochemistry research can be done at this university even though it is not a traditional powerhouse in plant biochemistry,” said Bates.

To learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Southern Miss, call 601.266.4701 or visit: http://www.usm.edu/chemistry-biochemistry