Gardens Science Director Wins Top US Scholarship

Dr Brett Summerell was last night awarded a Fulbright Scholarship as a Distinguished Chair in Agriculture and Life Sciences, supporting research and a speaking tour in the USA in 2018, focused on a group of fungi called Fusarium.

The Fusarium genus includes a number of the most economically important plant pathogens and this scholarship recognises the global importance of experts like Dr Summerell and their contribution to food security, quarantine and disease management.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the United States of America, aimed at increasing binational collaboration, cultural understanding, and the exchange of ideas.

Dr Summerell will travel to the USA next year where he will be based at the Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University the highest ranked Plant Pathology group in the country. During this period he will survey Fusarium in native grasslands along a north south transect through the middle of country. He will also embark on a seminar and speaking tour of America’s best botanic gardens and scientific institutions, including those in New York, Chicago, Missouri and California. Dr Summerell will also be working on a second edition of the Fusarium Laboratory Manual, the first edition of which was the publisher’s biggest selling plant science book for three years after publication. 

Brett is the Director of Science and Conservation at the Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, where he has worked in plant pathology, mycology and leading the science programs (including the National Herbarium of New South Wales and the Australian PlantBank) for 28 years.

Brett completed a B.Sc.Agr. with first class honours and university medal in 1985 and a PhD in 1988 at the University of Sydney.

He is an Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, University of Sydney and at the Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University.

More information about the Fulbright Program

Born in the aftermath of WWII, the program was established by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946 with the ethos of turning ‘swords into ploughshares’, whereby credits from the sale of surplus U.S. war materials were used to fund academic exchanges between host countries and the U.S.

Since its establishment, the Fulbright Program has grown to become the largest educational exchange program in the world, operating in over 160 countries. In its seventy-year history, more than 370,000 students, academics, and professionals have received Fulbright Scholarships to study, teach, or conduct research, and promote bilateral collaboration and cultural empathy.
Since its inception in Australia in 1949, the Fulbright Commission has awarded over 5,000 scholarships, creating a vibrant, dynamic, and interconnected network of Alumni.

Fulbright alumni have occupied key roles in government, academia, and industry. Of the alumni:

  • 82 have received the Pulitzer Prize
  • 54 have received a Nobel Prize
  • 33 have served as head of state or government
  • 10 have been elected to US Congress
  • 1 has served as secretary general of the United Nations