North Carolina State University Researcher Receives UNC Board of Governors’ Highest Faculty Honor

CHAPEL HILL – Trudy F.C. Mackay, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Genetics at North Carolina State University, received the O. Max Gardner Award today(Friday, May 11) from the Board of Governors of the 16-campus University of North Carolina. Recognized as one of the world’s leading quantitative geneticists, Mackay was honored for her groundbreaking contributions to our scientific understanding of how genetic and environmental factors affect variations in quantitative, or complex, traits in plants, animals, and humans.

The awards, given annually since 1949, were established by the will of Gov. Oliver Max Gardner to recognize faculty who have “made the greatest contributions to the welfare of the human race.” It is the only award for which all faculty members of the 16 UNC campuses are eligible. Recipients are nominated by their chancellors and selected by the Board of Governors. The 2007 award carries a $20,000 cash prize and was presented by UNC President Erskine Bowles and Gardner Award Committee Chairman Ed Broadwell of Asheville.

A native of Canada, Mackay earned bachelors and master’s degrees in biology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Edinburgh. She came to NC State as an associate professor in 1987, was named a full professor in 1993, and was named William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in 1996.

Early in her career, Mackay recognized that advances toward cures for complex diseases and major breakthroughs in plant and animal breeding would both require a deeper understanding of the links between genes, the environment, and the physical characteristics of individual plants, animals, and humans. By combining the statistical analyses of genetics with other modern molecular tools, she has used the fruit fly as model for studies of common human diseases such as glaucoma and alcoholism, economically important traits in crops and livestock, and adaptive traits in natural populations. Her cutting-edge research has identified specific evolutionary mechanisms that maintain quantitative variation in nature. Her work has far-reaching implications for improving the world’s food supply and advancing medical research on many human diseases and conditions.

Co-author of the most popular introductory textbook on quantitative genetics, Mackay has taught worldwide as part of the Summer Institutes for Statistical Genetics and has lectured widely at seminars, professional conferences, and workshops. In recognition of her vast contributions to the field, she has previously been awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal and named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society (United Kingdom), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition, she has received the Alumni Outstanding Research Award from NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Executive editor of the journal Genetical Research since 1987, Mackay has also served as associate editor of Genetics andEvolution. She also has served a number of professional boards and scientific panels, including the boards of the American Genetics Association and the Genetics Society of America.