Sue Tolin, professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2009 Alumni Award for Excellence in International Research.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in International Research is presented annually to a faculty or staff member who has had a significant impact on international research at Virginia Tech. Selection is based on contributions to the internationalization of Virginia Tech, global impact, significance of the project, and sustainability of the project. Recipients are awarded $2,000.

During her 43 years of service to Virginia Tech, Tolin has become an internationally recognized authority on the biology, genetics, diagnostics, and control of plant pathogenic viruses.

“Her efforts have had an impact on research programs in virology and viral diagnostics, in setting national and international policy, and in solving virus problems around the globe,” said Elizabeth Grabau, professor and head of the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Sciences.

Tolin leads the “Collaborative Assessment and Management of Insect Transmitted Viruses,” a global theme for the Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM-CRSP) with a budget of more than $500,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Although this project focuses on the Caribbean and Africa, Tolin has partnered with institutions in Colombia, Brazil, Hungary, Finland, and China for other research activities.

Donald Mullins, professor of entomology, noted that Tolin “has provided exemplary leadership within this IPM-CRSP in promoting development of plant disease diagnostic procedures and plant disease control practices in several international arenas.”

Tolin and Mullins share responsibility for teaching the graduate-level course Research and Information Systems in the Life Sciences. “In this course, she uses her knowledge and experience to provide our students with an international perspective, stressing the need and importance of animal and plant quarantine procedures and practices that are designed to prevent the spread of pests and diseases as the world economies become more integrated,” Mullins added.

With an understanding that viruses know no borders, Tolin has trained international students, hosted visited scientists, and traveled extensively for collaborations, meetings, and workshops. In addition to publishing more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and scientific papers, Tolin is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Phytopathological Society, for which she served as president in 1994-95.

Tolin earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from Purdue University and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in botany-plant pathology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.