Plant Pathology and Microbiology

Plant Pathology and Microbiology / Department Highlights / Faculty Highlights / Faculty Highlights - Dr. Greg Tylka

Faculty Highlights - Dr. Greg Tylka


Describe your journey to Iowa State University?  I was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. I studied at California University of Pennsylvania for my B.S. (1983) and M.S. degrees (1985) in biology. My M.S. research was on the isolation, quantification, and control of Cylindrocladium species from forest tree nursery soils. I then attended the University of Georgia to earn a PhD in plant pathology in 1990. At Georgia, I studied the interactions of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi with the soybean cyst nematode, Heterodera glycines, and with soil actinomycetes. I began work at Iowa State University as an assistant professor on February 12, 1990.

Why did you choose a career in plant pathology?  At California University of Pennsylvania, I got a job washing glassware in the laboratory for Dr. Barry B. Hunter. Dr. Hunter is the co-author of the Illustrated Guide to Imperfect Fungi and the research in his laboratory focused on Cylindrocladium spp., soil-borne imperfect fungi that cause rotting of conifer seedlings. After toiling as an hourly worker for a few months, I was given the opportunity to get involved in some research. Once my B.S. degree was complete, Dr. Hunter offered me an assistantship ($250 per month) to conduct research on effects of soil amendments on germination of survival structures of the Cylindrocladium fungi. It was during my M.S. research that my interest in plant pathology began.

What excites you about your job?  The opportunity to conduct research experiments to address the real-world problems of Iowa soybean growers and then being able to also educate growers and agribusiness professionals about the results of the research and how to better manage crop diseases.

What is your area of research and what impact does your research have?  Research in my laboratory investigates effects of soybean production practices and resistant varieties on soybean cyst nematode, Heterodera glycines, population densities and soybean yields. Additionally, we are studying interactions of H. glycines with the soybean brown stem rot pathogen, Cadophora gregata, and with the soybean aphid, Aphis glycines. Research also is underway to determine the effects of Heterodera glycines, Cadophora gregata, and Aphis glycines on levels of specific amino acids and fatty acids in soybean grain.

Why did you come to Iowa State University?  Iowa is a national leader in soybean production. What better place to work on the biology and management of soybean cyst nematode and educating growers about disease management?

What keeps you at Iowa State University?  In addition to Iowa’s premier reputation for soybean production and research, there is great support and appreciation for soybean research and extension activities from the ISU College of Agriculture, ISU Extension, and the soybean industry (seed companies, agribusinesses, and commodity organizations) in Iowa.

What advice would you give to prospective students considering a graduate degree?  Work as hard as you can – you will only be in graduate school once in your life. Also, work hard to develop excellent oral and written communication skills as these will be absolutely vital to your professional success.

What do you enjoy most about living in/near Ames? Ames is large enough to have major cultural and athletic events, but small enough not to have traffic jams, high crime, and other big-city problems.

What do you do when you are not working? I play and coach soccer, play racquetball, keep lizards as pets, and like to read newspapers and Internet web sites to keep up with current events and advances in computer technology.


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