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This Lectureship was established in 1981 by ARS to honor the memory of Sterling B. Hendricks and to recognize scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the chemical science of agriculture. Hendricks contributed to many diverse scientific disciplines, including soil science, mineralogy, agronomy, plant physiology, geology, and chemistry. The deadline for nominations is January 15, 2021.  For more information, direct inquiries to HendricksLecture@usda.gov.

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Co-sponsored by AGFD and AGRO Divisions

2020 Awardee

Thomas C. Sparks is a leading entomologist in the field of agrochemistry. His pioneering research in green chemistry resulted in spinetoram, one of the most advanced insecticides to reach the market that couples excellent efficacy with a favorable toxicological and environmental risk profile.

Spinetoram received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Chemistry Award in 2008. Since then, the industry has integrated spinosyns (compounds from the fermentation of the bacteria Saccharopolyspora spinosa) into several pest control programs around the world. By 2018, spinetoram’s total sales reached more than $1.4 billion. The spinosyns are currently registered in 80 countries around the world. Recently, Thomas and his team published groundbreaking research on the development of novel synthetic spinosyn mimics that are as effective in the field as spinetoram.

Born in San Francisco, Thomas grew up in a small farming community in California’s Central Valley. Always interested in insects, and later in chemistry, he obtained a B.A. in biology (chemistry minor, 1973) from California State University, Fresno, and a Ph.D. in entomology (1978) from the University of California, Riverside, under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Hammock (now at UC Davis) focusing on insect endocrinology, biochemistry, and toxicology. Thomas credits the broad training and inspiration he received in Dr. Hammock’s lab as outstanding preparation for his future roles in science.

He was a faculty member at Louisiana State University’s Department of Entomology from 1978 to 1989, and conducted pioneering research on insect juvenile hormone (JH) and JH esterase, insecticide biochemistry, and resistance. His research on JH esterase catalyzed more than 500 scientific papers by various authors on these agrochemical targets.

In 1989, Thomas joined Elanco, which became part of Dow AgroSciences, and shortly thereafter formed the Macrolide Research Group. This group coordinated much of the early spinosad-related research and development from which spinetoram emerged as a successful product. Thomas remained at Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Agriscience) for nearly 30 years in Discovery Research until his retirement in 2019, conducting research on new crop protection compounds, especially natural products. He now is an independent consultant.

Thomas holds more than 47 patents and pending patents and has authored more than 150 refereed journal publications, book chapters, and other articles. He has received numerous prestigious awards, including the American Chemical Society’s Kenneth A. Spencer (2019), Innovation (2015; first time for an industry scientist), and International (2012) awards; and recently, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) 2018 Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology (also the first time for an industry scientist). In 2009, R&D Magazine named Tom Scientist of the Year (first ever for a scientist in the field of agriculture) and, in 2012, he was named an ESA Fellow.

He is a former member of the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) and the AGRO Executive Committee and is presently on the Editorial Boards for Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology and Pest Management Science. He was an organizing member for symposia at several IUPAC International Congresses on Pesticide Chemistry.

Thomas and his wife Sandi have three children, Nicole, Kristina, and Janine; two sons-in-law, Jason and Abhay; and four grandchildren. He enjoys writing, technology history, and photography.

Past Awardees

1981

Norman E. Borlaug, Nobel Laureate, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico City, Mexico

1982

Warren L. Butler, University of California-San Diego

1983

Melvin Calvin, Nobel Laureate, University of California-Berkeley

1984

Frederick Ausubel, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

1985

Alan Putnam, Michigan State University, East Lansing

1986

Ralph Hardy, Cornell University and BioTechnica International, Ithaca, New York

1987

Mary-Dell Chilton, Ciba-Geigy Corporation, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

1988

Bruce N. Ames, University of California, Berkeley

1989

Sanford A. Miller, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas

1990

Roy L. Whistle, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

1991

Peter S. Eagleson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

1992

John E. Casida, University of California-Berkeley

1993

Philip H. Abelson, Deputy Editor, Science, and Scientific Advisor to AAAS, Washington, DC

1994

Wendell L. Roelofs, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

1995

Winslow R. Briggs, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California

1996

Hugh D. Sisler, University of Maryland, College Park

1997

Ernest Hodgson, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

1998

Morton Beroza, USDA-ARS (retired), Beltsville, Maryland

1999

Bruce D. Hammock, University of California-Davis

2000

William S. Bowers, University of Arizona, Tuscon

2001

Malcolm Thompson, USDA-ARS (retired), Beltsville, Maryland

2002

Irvin E. Liener, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

2003

Kriton Kleanthis Hatzios, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg

2004

Robert L. Buchanan, Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Maryland

2005

Donald L. Sparks, University of Delaware, Newark

2006

Stanley B. Prusiner, Nobel Laureate, University of California, San Francisco

2007

Bruce E. Dale, Michigan State University, East Lansing

2008

Fergus M. Clydesdale, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

2009

Charles J. Arntzen, Arizona State University-Tempe

2010

Chris Somerville, Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute, Berkeley, California

2011

Deborah P. Delmer, University of California-Davis

2012

Eric Block, University at Albany, State University of New York

2013

Keith Solomon, University of Guelph, Canada

2014

Robert T. Fraley, Monsanto, Company, St. Louis, Missouri

2015

James Tumlinson, Penn State, University Park

2016

May R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

2017

John Pickett, Rothamsted Research, United Kingdom

2018

James N. Seiber, University of California, Davis

2019

John W. Finley, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

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