Supporting the University’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about, respond to, and address sexual and relationship violence, the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence conducts the Sexual and Relationship Violence Survey, with the support of the Office of…
Liu Inducted Into National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hall of Fame
Zhanjiang (John) Liu, professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the University’s vice president for international strategy, has been inducted into the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Hall of Fame as the organization’s 2022 honoree.
The recognition cites an individual’s contributions to that organization and work in support of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) strategic goals, including a commitment to the nation’s food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences enterprises. Inductees are recognized for their research, education and career efforts extending NIFA’s mission of investing in and advancing agricultural research, education and extension to solve societal challenges.
In addition to his outstanding research contributions, Liu is being honored by NIFA for nearly 20 years of service as aquaculture coordinator for the National Research Support Project. In that role, he coordinated aquaculture genome research involving more than 400 scientists around the world.
Over the past 30 years, Liu’s research in aquaculture genomics and bioinformatics has provided critical information and technological support to the U.S. catfish industry. It includes construction of the first “all-fish” expression vector, the genetic and physical maps of catfish, whole genome sequencing and assembly, decoding of the channel catfish and blue catfish genomes, and discoveries of genes important for growth, heat stress, low oxygen tolerance and disease resistance. Those genes and associated markers allow selection of genetic stocks for the catfish industry.
Liu says he is humbled and honored by this prestigious award. “It represents a capstone of my career as an educator and researcher. It means a lot to me personally and professionally, and it’s like a shot in the arm. It makes me want to work more effectively and efficiently to return many of the benefits I received from my time at the University of Minnesota, Auburn University and Syracuse University.”
Liu says he is especially thankful for the opportunities to enhance research at Syracuse University in areas related to the social challenges of food, health, energy and the environment, climate change, and water and other natural resources. Among his years of efforts, he is most proud of his work educating and training students, he says, since most of his Ph.D. students are now professors themselves in the U.S. and in many other countries.
Liu joined Syracuse University as vice president for research in 2017 and later became interim vice chancellor and provost. He was appointed to his current University role in June 2022.
He has guided many of the University’s commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, including a “Future Professors Postdoctoral Fellowship” program; the First-Year Seminar and creation of the Student Activism Engagement Team. As vice president for research, he conceptualized and developed the cluster hiring program to foster interdisciplinary collaborations. As provost, he led the program expansion into 10 key areas in which the University’s research can lead the way in solving pressing problems.
He came to Syracuse from Auburn University, where he spent 22 years as a faculty member in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. He also served as associate dean for the College of Agriculture and associate director for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, and then as associate provost and associate vice president for research at Auburn. He was a founding member of Auburn’s cell and molecular biosciences program and served as director of its aquatic genomics unit for many years. Liu also provided leadership in advancing aquaculture genetics as part of the USDA’s National Animal Genome Program and served on a panel that developed the blueprint for the national animal genomics, genetics and breeding programs.
NIFA’s work advancing agricultural research and education is an important endeavor, says Liu. “Agricultural research and education address the core issues of global challenges in food security, food safety, poverty and social justice, human nutrition and health, energy and the environment, and climate change. Resolving these challenges will enhance the quality of life of all people,” Liu says. “Research in these areas is now more important than ever to provide solutions to the global challenges, and I am particularly grateful to Auburn University for over two decades of research and leadership in those areas.”
Liu earned a bachelor’s degree in plant protection from Northwestern Agricultural University in China. He obtained a master’s degree in plant pathology in 1985 and a doctoral degree in cell and developmental biology in 1989 from the University of Minnesota St. Paul.