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.
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.
Norman E. Borlaug, Nobel Laureate, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico City, Mexico
Warren L. Butler, University of California-San Diego
Melvin Calvin, Nobel Laureate, University of California-Berkeley
Frederick Ausubel, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Alan Putnam, Michigan State University, East Lansing
Ralph Hardy, Cornell University and BioTechnica International, Ithaca, New York
Mary-Dell Chilton, Ciba-Geigy Corporation, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
Bruce N. Ames, University of California, Berkeley
Sanford A. Miller, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas
Roy L. Whistle, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Peter S. Eagleson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
John E. Casida, University of California-Berkeley
Philip H. Abelson, Deputy Editor, Science, and Scientific Advisor to AAAS, Washington, DC
Wendell L. Roelofs, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Winslow R. Briggs, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California
Hugh D. Sisler, University of Maryland, College Park
Ernest Hodgson, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
Morton Beroza, USDA-ARS (retired), Beltsville, Maryland
Bruce D. Hammock, University of California-Davis
William S. Bowers, University of Arizona, Tuscon
Malcolm Thompson, USDA-ARS (retired), Beltsville, Maryland
Irvin E. Liener, University of Minnesota, St. Paul
Kriton Kleanthis Hatzios, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
Robert L. Buchanan, Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Maryland
Donald L. Sparks, University of Delaware, Newark
Stanley B. Prusiner, Nobel Laureate, University of California, San Francisco
Bruce E. Dale, Michigan State University, East Lansing
Fergus M. Clydesdale, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Charles J. Arntzen, Arizona State University-Tempe
Chris Somerville, Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute, Berkeley, California
Deborah P. Delmer, University of California-Davis
Eric Block, University at Albany, State University of New York
Keith Solomon, University of Guelph, Canada
Robert T. Fraley, Monsanto, Company, St. Louis, Missouri
James Tumlinson, Penn State, University Park
May R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
John Pickett, Rothamsted Research, United Kingdom
James N. Seiber, University of California, Davis
John W. Finley, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge