May 14, 2008
Contact: Caroline Jenkins Hanna
Director of Media Relations


AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College biology professor Michael Hood is among 190 winners of the 2008 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s 84th annual fellowship competition for the United States and Canada. Hood received one of the prestigious awards in support of his research on the evolutionary ecology and global disease distribution of a fungus that causes a common plant disease.

“I’m very excited about the research activities supported by this award, including surveys of museum collections and studies of DNA sequences from pathogens found there,” said Hood. “The more we learn about diseases in natural animal and plant populations, the better we can predict how they will respond to the current changes in the environment.”

According to the Guggenheim Foundation, fellows are appointed based on “stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment.” Hood joins a group of fellows this year who include a composer from Oakland, California; a 98-year-old New Jersey-based writer; a Canadian studying biogeochemical feedbacks on polar climate stability in British Columbia; and a researcher exploring the link between diet and obesity, among others. The recipients were selected from 2,615 applicants in 75 different fields for awards totaling $8.2 million and were notified via a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.

“I was completely delighted to receive this research support,” said Hood, “and the listing in The Times led to several really nice e-mails and messages from people familiar with our studies.”

The Guggenheim is the second honor Hood has received this year. In March, the National Science Foundation recognized him and his work with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. The five-year, $690,000 prize enables him to continue his research on the transmission and genomics of Microbrytrum violaceum, which causes a common infectious disease called anther smut in plants (though it’s harmless to humans). His studies of the pathogenic fungus may one day better explain how common illnesses function.

Hood received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia. He earned a doctorate from North Carolina State University and completed post doctoral work at Duke University and the University of Virginia. He joined the Amherst faculty in 2006.

Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $265 million in fellowships to almost 16,500 individuals. Scores of Nobel-, Pulitzer- and other prize-winners grace the roll of Guggenheim fellows, including Ansel Adams, W. H. Auden, Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Isamu Noguchi, Linus Pauling, Philip Roth, Paul Samuelson, Wendy Wasserstein, Derek Walcott, James Watson and Eudora Welty.