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Grunden Named Assistant Director of NCARS

Photo of Amy Grunden in NC State's Phytotron.

Amy Grunden, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, has officially been named assistant director for the life sciences for the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (NCARS).

She started in the position on July 13. As part of her new role, Grunden will serve as a liaison and advocate for faculty and staff members in the life sciences.

Steve Lommel, NCARS director and CALS associate dean for research, announced the appointment.

“We are very excited for Amy Grunden to be part of the NCARS team,” Lommel said. “She has a proven track record in faculty mentoring, research leadership and managing large interdisciplinary efforts, all attributes that will support and grow the CALS research enterprise.”

Grunden came to NC State in July 2000. Since then she has led numerous microbial biotechnology-focused research projects; mentored early career faculty; taught hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students in general microbiology and microbial metabolic regulation, respectively; and advised dozens of graduate and undergraduate students.

“I’ve been very proud of being able to bring together interdisciplinary teams to work towards making a difference in some of the grand challenges we’re facing,” Grunden said. One of these interdisciplinary teams is working on an international Novo Nordisk Foundation-funded research program to leverage microbes to improve wheat resilience. “I really enjoy being able to engage faculty members to develop strategies to improve food security in a sustainable manner.”

As she steps into her new role, she is looking forward to helping to bring together teams of faculty members to tackle research challenges and advance training efforts. She will also continue working on several research projects.

Grunden credits the example set by Becky Boston, the previous assistant director for the life sciences, as one of the reasons she applied for the position.

“She was an exceptional advocate for the life sciences and an outstanding mentor to faculty and staff members at all levels,” Grunden said. “I look to continue the excellent things that she has done, but where I’d like to make the position my own is that we’re at the point where we’re implementing a number of initiatives: the Plant Sciences Initiative, the Food Animal Initiative and others. I really want to be engaged with faculty members and make sure that these are all successful.”

In addition to ensuring the success of existing initiatives, she will support the development of others, particularly in the areas of water resource management, resilient agriculture and sustainability.

She is currently on NC State’s Strengthening University-Wide Interdisciplinarity strategic taskforce. As assistant director she will continue to engage with other colleges on campus and work to break down the barriers that slow down interdisciplinary research.

“I look forward to helping CALS faculty members, especially junior faculty, feel more comfortable and less stressed about engaging in interdisciplinary efforts,” Grunden said. “I think that one of the things as a college that we can do to help foster interdisciplinarity is to make sure that we build in time for groups of faculty members to meet and understand one another’s ‘language’ and frames of reference.”

Prior to coming to NC State, Grunden conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Georgia. She received her bachelor’s and doctorate in microbiology from the University of Florida.

“We are living through unprecedented times, but I want to be as responsive to the needs of our faculty, staff and students as possible, and make sure that we’re making decisions that help everyone be as safe and productive as possible during these very trying times,” Grunden said. “I’m looking forward to being a true liaison for the life sciences faculty and staff members.”