Facebook Twitter

From research for Quaker Oats to mentoring and teaching: See who earned BYU’s most prestigious faculty honor

SHARE From research for Quaker Oats to mentoring and teaching: See who earned BYU’s most prestigious faculty honor
Professors Rick Jellen, left, and Jeff Maughan pose with oat plants in a greenhouse on BYU’s campus in June 2022.

Professors Rick Jellen, left, and Jeff Maughan pose with oat plants in a greenhouse on BYU’s campus in June 2022. They worked with a group of researchers to sequence the genome of the oat, and their paper was published in top science journal “Nature.”

Donovan Kelly/BYU

This article was first published in the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

BYU is holding its annual University Conference this week, the time each year when it honors its best professors, teachers, researchers, other faculty, staff and administrators.

Rick Jellen, a plant and wildlife sciences professor whose research twice has been published in top science journal “Nature,” is the 2023 recipient of the BYU’s most prestigious faculty award, the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award.

Jellen and Maughan published a paper in “Nature” in 2017 with research could make quinoa taste better and cost less while growing in all kinds of conditions around the world. Last year, they published in “Nature” again with a paper on the genetic sequencing of oats.

The award, BYU President Shane Reese said, “is given to one who has demonstrated clear superiority in scholarship and teaching. It acknowledges a person who embodies the full realization of a BYU faculty member, one who has a clear understanding and implementation of our unique BYU mission ...”

“Dr. Jellen is dedicated to students, clearly evidenced by the numerous students he mentors every year.”

Jellen was part of a team that last year published the cover paper in “Nature” that sequenced the entire genome of the modern oat. Jellen and BYU colleague Jeff Maughan sequenced the genomes of two of oat’s ancient progenitors to provide its evolutionary history. The information from the sequencing of modern and ancestral oat reduces guesswork about strains of oats, so oat breeders now can accelerate crop breeding.

“Knowing where the genes are and being able to rapidly screen an unknown line and be able to look at what the variants are in the genome that it has for the key genes of interest, that’s a huge thing to be able to do,” Jellen said.

He said it’s also much faster and surprisingly, cheaper, than field or lab work.

“It may sound like it’s a lot of money to sequence DNA, but it’s very, very cheap to do,” he said. “It’s much more expensive and more complicated to put plants out in the field and get them exposed to the right kinds of environmental stresses that you want to screen for, or to do the right kinds of biochemical tests and nutritional quality tests in a lab. That’s really expensive.”

Jellen and Maughan are working with an oat breeder in Morocco to breed oats for that region’s hot subtropical environment there, as well as with breeders in the tropics in Nigeria and Ethiopia.

If you’ve visited the church’s famed Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, you may have seen the Moroccan woman who is breeding oats with Jellen’s help.

Jellen has worked on oats since he began grad school over 35 years ago at the University of Minnesota. His first project for grad school was funded by Quaker Oats.

Reese, though, focused on Jellen’s teaching and mentoring. BYU emphasizes undergraduate teaching.

“University conference is a unique opportunity to gather at the start of a new academic here and be reminded of why we are here, for the students, and what makes BYU an exceptional educational institution,” Rosemary Thackeray, BYU’s assistant to the president for assessment and planning, told the faculty, staff and administrators on Monday.

See the rest of the BYU honors below.

My recent stories

Parents object to Maryland school district refusing to let kids opt out of storybook time (Aug. 30)

Elder Cook urges BYU faculty, staff to be excellent professionally and prepare students for eternity (Aug. 28)

Deseret Magazine cover story: Meet the Africans pioneering a unique approach to higher ed with BYU’s Pathway program (Aug. 24)

Latter-day Saint universities update honor code, ecclesiastical endorsements and dress standards (Aug. 24)

About the church

Video: Five apostles talk about how serving a mission influenced their lives. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s reference to the suit and vest he took on his mission is hilarious.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong welcomed media-day guests to the Bangkok Thailand Temple open house. See interior and exterior photos of the new temple.

Elder David A. Bednar dedicated the Joseph and Emma Smith Home in historic Kirtland, Ohio. He also toured Kirtland historic sites with some of his grandchildren and an apostle from the Community of Christ.

The Manhattan New York Temple will close for renovations. Here’s what it will look like.

The Mercury News reported about the announcement of the location of the first Latter-day Saint temple in the Silicon Valley. Other locations were released for temples in La Paz, Bolivia; Natal, Brazil; and Teresina, Brazil.

Sheri Dew, executive vice president and chief content officer of Deseret Management Corp., parent company of the Deseret News, wrote “Stand up and be counted, don’t ‘mumble’ about your faith” for the Church News.

A group of leaders from Kurdistan group visited church headquarters.

What I’m reading

Bronco and Holly Mendenhall sat in their Montana home with Sheri Dew for the Church News Podcast. They said Bronco plans to have the home completed by November so he can be on the 2024 hiring market for college football head coaching jobs.

Perspective: Churches are increasingly economically homogenous. Could ward boundaries offer a solution?

In-N-Out and 5 other companies with bible verses on their packaging.

2023 BYU faculty, staff and administrative award recipients

The Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award: Rick Jellen, professor in the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences.

The Ben E. Lewis Management Award (Recognizes the outstanding administrative employee for their overall contributions and dedication to BYU values): Darin Oviatt, associate dean in the Division of Continuing Education.

The Fred A. Schwendimann Performance Award (Recognizes a staff employee for exemplary contributions to the university through consistent and superior service): Bonnie Bingham, office manager for Digital Humanities in the College of Humanities.

President’s Appreciation Award (Recognizes staff and administrative personnel for exceptional service, creativity and competence): Sam Brown, director of International Services; Jana Cottle, executive assistant at Student Development Services; Will Graham, Flooring and Upholstery Shop; Brian Hill, Grounds and Landscape Management; Landes Holbrook, International Vice President’s Office; Emily Hreha, Harold B. Library; Lisa Leavitt, Student Life; Carolyn Vermeulen, office manager for Plant and Wildlife Sciences.

Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award: Steven K. Charles, mechanical engineering; Leigh A. Johnson, Biology; Shawn Nissen, communication disorders.

Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award: Jeff Dyer, professor of business strategy; Daniel Everett, art; Kimberly Johnson, English.

Karl G. Maeser Professional Faculty Excellence Award: Jeremy Michael Browne, Humanities; Mark Bryann Colton, mechanical engineering; Sam Nielson, design.

University Professorship: Michael Dorff, mathematics.

Alumni Professorship: David Dean Allred, physics and astronomy.

General Education Professorship: Rickelle Richards, nutrition, dietetics and food science.

Abraham O. Smoot Citizenship Award: Spencer P. Magleby, mechanical engineering.

Wesley P. Lloyd Award for Distinction in Graduate Education: David H. Moore, new dean of the BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School.

Phi Kappa Phi Award: Grant George Schultz, civil and construction engineering.

Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award: P. Christine Ackroyd, chemistry; Eric Blum, Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics; Apryl Cox, history; James W. Melville, educational leadership and foundations.

Sponsored Research Recognition Award: Norm Jones, civil and construction engineering; Jim Nelson, civil and construction engineering.

Early Career Scholarship Award: Ryan Gabriel, sociology; Ryan T. Kelly, chemistry; Emly Vaterlaus Patten, nutrition, dietetics and food science; Isaac H. Smith, business management.

BYU Class of 1949 Faculty Award: Keely Song Glenn, dance.

Technology Transfer Award: DJ (Dah Jye) Lee, electrical and computer engineering

Early Career Teaching Award: Ryan Cordner, microbiology and molecular biology; Matthew J. Heaton, statistics; Marc Daniel Killpack, mechanical engineering; Amy Dansle Williams, English.

Creative Works Award: Alex Baugh, Religious Studies Center; Gaye Strathearn, Religious Studies Center.

Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowships

Ferrin L. Norton Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship: Blaine D. Griffen, biology.

Ephraim Hatch Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship: Casey Paul Griffiths, church history and doctrine.

Randall L. Morgan Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship: Jaren Hinckley, music.

R. Wayne Hansen Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship: Carolina Nuñez, law.

Jack Bailly Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship: Daniel H. Olsen

Richard Roskelly Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship: Rebecca L. Sansom, chemistry.