2014 ACS Fellow Award – McConnell

Laura McConnell and Marinda Wu

Laura McConnell and Marinda Wu

Dr. Laura McConnell is a Senior Scientist at Bayer CropScience Development North America in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where she provides expertise as Environmental Fate Coordinator in support of product development. Prior to 2014, she served as a Lead Scientist and Research Chemist at the USDA, Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland. Laura’s expertise is in the utilization of analytical and environmental chemistry tools to investigate processes controlling the fate and transport of pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and other pollutants with the ultimate goal of designing more sustainable farming systems.

Laura received her BS in Chemistry from the College of Charleston, where she conducted undergraduate research with Frank Kinard, and her PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the University of South Carolina, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry with Terry Bidleman. As a graduate student, she received the Iota Sigma Pi, Anna Louise Hoffman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Graduate Research and the American Chemical Society, Division of Environmental Chemistry, Graduate Student Paper Award. As a Post-Doc at the USDA-ARS, she initiated a number of studies to examine the fate of agricultural pesticides in the air and water of the Chesapeake Bay and was honored with the ARS, Herbert L. Rothbart, Outstanding Early Career Scientist of the
Year.

During her 15 years as a Research Chemist at USDA-ARS, she led a number of studies to improve the understanding of pollutant fate in sensitive ecosystems. In addition she provided leadership and vision in the Choptank River Watershed Conservation Effects Assessment Project. The Choptank River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay with agriculture as the primary land use in its watershed. Research efforts at linking land use and hydrology in distinct sub-watersheds with water quality revealed important differences in factors governing nutrient and pesticide fate which have been useful in improving conservation practices in the region. Significant advances were made in the use of remote sensing to determine the nutrient uptake of winter cover crops and to map forested wetlands. Laura, with co-leader Greg McCarty, developed a multi-disciplinary team of government and university scientists and interacted with partners at Maryland Natural Resources Conservation Service and Maryland Department of Agriculture. The Choptank is now part of the ARS Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network of sites across the United States.

Over her career, Laura has authored 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, served as PI or Co-PI on $3.9M in outside research funding, and has mentored 3 post-doctoral scientists and codirected 9 Master’s and PhD students. She has served on environmental science-related advisory panels for the US EPA and European Food Safety Authority, and she serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry and as an associate editor of Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Laura has also provided leadership on a large number of initiatives within the AGRO division. As an active member she was elected to the Executive Committee in 2000 and became editor of the divisional newsletter, the PICOGRAM. In 2005 she assumed a leadership role when elected Vice-Chair, and she served as Program Chair in 2006 and Chair in 2007. She has coorganized symposia on numerous topics, including the first symposium sponsored by an ACS division at a Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Annual meeting.

In 2008, she led the development of a strategic planning workshop for the division. The resulting strategic plan has governed the activities of the division and has led to an improvement in member services and has expanded the quality and impact of AGRO programming. She has continued as Strategic Planning Chair, organizing a new workshop and the development of a newly updated strategic plan in 2011. She serves as webmaster for the AGRO Division, and in 2012, she initiated the AGRO Lunch and Learn Webinar Series which has been successful in increasing the web presence and influence of the Division. In 2009, she co-authored a proposal with Ken Racke to IUPAC on behalf of AGRO to host the IUPAC Congress in 2014 at the 248th ACS national Meeting in San Francisco. Once the proposal was accepted by IUPAC, they began working with leaders in ACS to facilitate integration of the Congress into the structure of the ACS meeting. They established an organizing committee and numerous sub-committees, seeking to include international scientists in the planning process. This Congress is the first IUPAC conference held as part of an ACS National Meeting.