Perspectives Online

David Smith named to top research position

Dr. David Smith

A long-time N. C.State University faculty member has been named associate dean for research for N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the College’s North Carolina Agricultural Research Service.

Dr. David Smith, Philip Morris Professor and formerly head of N.C. State’s Department of Crop Science, succeeds Dr. Sylvia Blankenship, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate dean for administration, who was serving as interim Research Service director. In addition, Dr. Steven Lommel, interim associate dean for research, has been active in administering the day-to-day operation of the Research Service.

The Agricultural Research Service is the research arm of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with oversight responsibility for close to $130 million in research expenditures annually.

Smith joined the N.C. State faculty in 1981 as a North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service tobacco specialist in the Department of Crop Science. He was named interim department head in 2006 and permanent head a year later. Crop science is one of the largest departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Smith holds a Ph.D. in crop science from N.C. State University, while both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees are from the University of Florida. Both degrees are in agronomy. 

The majority of Smith’s career has been spent working with North Carolina’s flue-cured and burley tobacco growers and Cooperative Extension agents as Extension tobacco specialist, although he served for two years, from 1994 to 1996, as Crop Science Department extension leader and associate department head. He was named Philip Morris Professor in 2000.

In the late 1980s, Smith led extension educational efforts and research programs that aided North Carolina tobacco growers in transitioning to a method of growing young tobacco plants in greenhouses. The so-called transplants are then moved to fields. This system is now used by all the state’s tobacco growers. Smith’s tobacco research and demonstration efforts also helped growers increase transplant survival and dramatically reduce fertilizer usage and cost.

Smith said his overarching goal as Research Service director will be to provide an infrastructure that will allow individual faculty members to be successful.

“We have a diverse faculty in terms of the scientific disciplines that faculty members represent, yet all our faculty have one thing in common,” Smith said. “We are all here to support North Carolina citizens and to work toward improving the quality of life in the state and beyond.”

Smith assumes leadership of the Research Service at a time of budget difficulty throughout state government, and the Research Service is no different.

Smith said his most immediate challenge as Research Service director will be to manage research funding in a manner that will continue to support the creativity of College faculty. He added that a priority will be filling a vacant associate director position with a person with the expertise needed to support faculty who are pursuing diverse scientific interests.

-- Dave Caldwell