CHAPEL HILL — N.C. State University insect researcher Fred Gould has won the UNC systems award for the faculty member who has made the greatest contributions to the welfare of the human race.
Gould, the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Entomology, received the 2012 O. Max Gardner Award on Friday from the UNC Board of Governors.
Its the only award for which faculty at all 17 system campuses can compete, and Gould said thats what made it special.
It was pretty amazing, sitting in the audience and realizing that I had been picked from such a large and distinguished group of colleagues, he said.
Gould is an international leader in the fast-emerging field of genetically engineering insects to prevent transmission of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever and to reduce the pest damage to crops. Those insect-linked problems cost billions of dollars in health care costs and farmers income, and affect millions of lives.
He came to NCSU in 1977 and was named Reynolds professor in 1993. Since 2002, he also has served as an adjunct professor in the genetics department.
Gould did some of the important early work in engineering the genes of plants to make them more resistant to insects, then began working on the genes of the insects themselves. Now he and his team are focusing on a species of mosquito that is known to carry diseases such of dengue fever and malaria. They are developing genetically modified strains that cant transmit the dengue virus, and which can spread that trait among wild mosquitoes.
His work led to the recent development of an interdisciplinary graduate program in genetic pest management at NCSU, the first in the world designed to train students in both the science and the social issues associated with human intervention, biology and genetics.
That program is supported by a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Gould was elected last year into the National Academy of Sciences, and won the 2010-11 Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence, which is NCSUs highest award for faculty achievement. In 2004, he received the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation Award, presented annually to the person judged to have made the most significant contribution to American agriculture during the previous five years.
His newest honor, which has been given annually since 1949, was established by the will of Gov. O. Max Gardner and includes a $20,000 cash prize. Recipients are nominated by their chancellors and selected by the Board of Governors.
Its the fifth time since 2003 that a member of the NCSU faculty has won the award.