CALS Awards: Academic Staff Excellence Award recipients

Two weeks ago we celebrated all of this year’s CALS Award recipients, and this week we begin to share more information about all of the individual winners, starting with the Academic Staff Excellence Awards.

Christian G. Krueger

Christian G. Krueger has served UW–Madison for more than 25 years, most recently as research program manager II in the Reed Laboratory. He has been a highly prolific researcher, with more than 75 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, as well as a productive entrepreneur, with several patents, inventions and startup companies. Most of his recent work has focused on the use of plant products and animal models to improve human health, and his laboratory management, technical skills and scientific knowledge have facilitated countless collaborations and contributions in the areas of phytochemistry, mucosal immunology and cardiovascular health.

One very unique aspect about Krueger’s appointment in the Reed Lab is that he was granted blanket PI status. This greatly increased the grantsmanship effort of the Reed Research Group, and Krueger has successfully served as PI/Co-PI on over 30 funded projects. As PI/Co-PI, Krueger has worked with Reed and other collaborators by coordinating the research efforts across Animal Sciences, Horticulture, Biological Systems Engineering, Pharmacy, Chemistry and the School of Medicine and Public Health. His research in the areas of cardiovascular disease and urinary tract infection has led to nine patents, with Krueger as an inventor. Moreover, these patents and other research have resulted in several start-up companies commercializing medical foods and nutritional formulas.

His role in the Reed Laboratory research program is an excellent example of how academic staff contribute to the research mission of the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department, CALS and the entire campus. In addition, his leadership role in commercialization of IP is an excellent example of how academic staff contribute to the Wisconsin Idea and the role of the university as an economic engine for the growth of Wisconsin’s economy.

Michael Petersen

As the associate director of the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center (WCIC), Michael Petersen is responsible for providing day-to-day oversight and management of a large array of research and production activities, staffing and administrative functions and facility operation and maintenance. In the year leading up to – and in the years following – the opening of the WCIC facility to the public in 2017, Petersen has gone above and beyond the call of duty in his position at WCIC. Setting up, staffing and successfully launching a new, cutting-edge crop genome engineering/editing research and service center has been an ambitious and tremendous undertaking, and Petersen’s performance has strongly contributed to the outstanding success of this new center to date.

Petersen would not be successful if not for his team, and this is clearly where he excels. Petersen creates an environment that is inclusive of ideas and supportive of career development and as a result, his team is dedicated and supportive. His on-site management and direction of the staff and teams have led to setting and meeting critical research and production goals such that the WCIC has been able to attract customers from the U.S. and around the world for the center’s transformation/editing services, creating a steady funding stream from external research grants.

Petersen’s remarkable leadership skills have been on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the WCIC directors and with the UW–Madison administration, he quickly organized “essential employee task forces” to keep the business moving while keeping all the employees safe. He worked extensively on the development of Covid 19-related work and staffing plans for WCIC, taking into account all safety precautions, staff concerns and needs, and balancing all with the need to continue activities to prevent the loss of unique, invaluable tissue culture and plant materials and experiments during that time.

Plia Xiong

Plia Xiong, prospective student services coordinator, advisor, and lead for CALS Ambassadors, serves as the front line for providing timely information and a friendly face for students interested in applying to CALS, or seeking more information about our programs. Xiong has molded programming and activities to make the prospective student experience personable and engaging. She has developed information sessions and visit days that are interactive and engaging, and she has worked hard to develop communication lines to aid students during the application process. Xiong also supervises the CALS Student Ambassadors, current students who serve as representatives and aides in producing the programs and activities for prospective students. In this role, she has been a great mentor to the Ambassadors, providing guidance and wisdom to allow them to be creative and empowered, and able to grow in their leadership skills. In a given year, Xiong interacts with several hundred prospective students through programming or outreach and does a great job of presenting CALS as a warm, caring place where students can thrive.

Xiong has served as an advisor within the TAOS unit with a caseload of students, and she goes the extra mile to serve the students under her watch by being knowledgeable about resources and information and reaching out to find out what she does not know. She is very well-respected and valued for her work, and equally so for her personality and presence. She had made her mark within Academic Affairs and by extension the college and is a rising professional who will continue to do great things.