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F. Ann DraughonA University of Tennessee food microbiologist received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring during a ceremony at the White House Nov. 16.

F. Ann Draughon, a professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ Department of Food Science and Technology, was one of 10 individual researchers to receive the nation’s highest recognition for mentoring in a field of science, mathematics or engineering. Only 178 such awards have been presented to individuals or institutions since the award was initiated, and Draughon’s award represents the first time a UT faculty member has been honored.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring are supported and administered by the National Science Foundation. The awards have been made annually since 1996 to recognize the importance of mentors in the academic and personal development of students and colleagues who are underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Draughon was recognized for mentoring women and minorities in the field of food microbiology and food science. In her tenure at the university, she has mentored more than 50 Ph.D. and M.S. students, approximately half of whom were female, seven of whom were black and three of whom were Hispanic. In addition, Draughon has been active in recruiting and mentoring black, Hispanic and other minority undergraduate and graduate students and technical staff.

A member of the UT faculty since 1979, Draughon was the second female faculty member hired by the then College of Agriculture. She achieved the rank of professor in just 10 years. In 1995 she served as the first female president of the International Association for Food Protection, which was established in 1913.

In December 2000, Draughon was appointed co-director of the UT Food Safety Center of Excellence with Dr. Stephen Oliver, a professor of animal science.

The Presidential Award includes a $10,000 grant that Draughon plans to use for mentoring women and underrepresented minorities as they study food microbiology and food safety at UT. Funds will be used to help Draughon and her students with their professional development, for example by enabling their travel to professional meetings, workshops or internships.

"Talent is widely dispersed. Effective mentoring of women and underrepresented minorities will broaden opportunities for the individuals and enhance the critical mass of intellectual energy and vitality essential to maintaining the United States’ high level of scientific discovery," said Draughon. "I am very honored to contribute to the effort and deeply appreciate the letters of nomination from former students and their trust in choosing me as their mentor."

UT Vice President for Agriculture Joseph DiPietro expressed appreciation for Draughon’s achievement.

"I’m pleased that Dr. Draughon has been recognized for her efforts," said DiPietro. "More importantly, the Institute of Agriculture looks forward to the additional focus on student success this award will bring and to the outcome of even greater academic achievement by our female and minority students."