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Campus alumna to speak at commencement

Joyce Van Eck, Ph.D.
5/11/2007 —

Joyce M. Van Eck, Ph.D., a Penn State Wilkes-Barre alumna and lead biogenetic researcher at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University, will speak to graduates at the Wilkes-Barre campus commencement, Saturday, May 19. A nationally recognized biogeneticist, Dr. Eck has been a part of the International Tomato Genome sequencing project, a consortium of ten different countries working towards the goal of producing a genetically better tomato. She has also worked on the nutritional enhancement to develop a potato high in antioxidants, namely beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in the body and is important for eye health and has been shown to decrease the incidence of certain cancers. She has also collaborated on plant-made vaccines with Dow AgroSciences resulting in a system to make vaccines in plant cells.  One vaccine produced was for Newcastle Disease Virus, which affects poultry. 

Raised in both the Plains and Pittston areas, Dr. Eck is a graduate of Coughlin High School. Dr. Eck says she was glad to be able to attend the small and personal Wilkes-Barre campus and save money living at home while starting her Penn State degree.  She went on to the University Park campus where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Plant Science in 1980. She earned a Master of Science in Plant Science from the University of Delaware; and holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Cornell University.

Dr. Eck began her professional career as a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Plant Research at Cornell in 1997. She has served as project manager of the International Tomato Genome Sequencing Initiative; primary investigator on research projects focused on nutritional enhancement of potato; group leader for plant-made vaccine projects; coordinator of educational outreach activities for kindergarten – 12th grade and a computational biology summer internship program; and manager of the Plant Tissue Culture and Transformation Facility.

She previously served as a consultant and research scientist for Sanford Scientific, Inc./The Scotts Company, Waterloo, NY, from 1998-2003, where she was an advisor on the development of gene transfer methods in ornamental crops. She has served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, at Cornell University and a Graduate Research Assistant, at the University of Delaware.

She received the Above and Beyond Award from Dow AgroSciences Inc.; the Excellence in Execution and Presentation from The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research; and is a Coordinator, Tomato Genetic Biodiversity Garden.  She has numerous book chapters and refereed journal publications. She holds numerous patents in biogenetics.

Photo Credit: www.sinkowphotography.com


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