University of Georgia faculty member Michelle Momany has been selected as a Fellow of the Mycological Society of America. Momany, professor of Plant Biology and associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, was announced as an MSA Fellow at the organization’s first-ever virtual meeting in mid-July.
The Mycological Society of America Fellow Award is granted to an outstanding member of the society for extended service and contributions to mycology in teaching and research.
Mycology is the study of fungi, a large group of organisms that release enzymes into the environment to break down food and then absorb the released nutrients. Fungi range from microscopic yeasts to macroscopic mushrooms and can form symbiotic relationships with many other organisms. Mycologists study fungi that cause diseases of plants and people, play key roles in natural environments, produce valuable industrial products, and help unlock underlying principles of basic biology.
MSA Fellows are members who are outstanding mycologists on the basis of a solid record of mycological research, successful teaching and development of teaching materials for mycology, and significant service to the Society.
“It’s a wonderful honor to be named an MSA Fellow, which is really a recognition of all of the outstanding students and other colleagues I’ve had the pleasure to work with here at UGA,” Momany said. “The UGA Fungal Biology Group has been a constant source of support and inspiration.”
A leader in the UGA Fungal Biology Group, Momany has served on the international Fungal Genetics Policy Committee, and was a founding member and chair of the international Aspergillus Genomics Research Policy Committee. Momany is an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences, and a University of Georgia Women’s Leadership Fellow.
Momany’s research is focused on basic biology and antifungal resistance in the pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Momany lab was one of the first groups to characterize early development in A. fumigatus. Recently her lab has focused on understanding dormancy and germination of A. fumigatus spores and on antifungal-resistant A. fumigatus in the environment.
Her group is also focused on polarity and the septin cytoskeleton in the model system Aspergillus nidulans. Momany cloned the first septin from a filamentous fungus and her lab was among the first to show commonalities in septins from animals and fungi. She discovered the first noncore septin, the prototype for many septins not found in budding yeast or animals. Recently her lab has focused on evolution of the septins and interactions among septins.
Momany has developed and taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses at UGA. The fungal courses include undergraduate First Year Odyssey: Fungi in Research and Disease and Plants and Fungi for Teachers; graduate courses include Genetics of Yeast and Filamentous Fungi, Mycology seminar, Experimental Mycology, and Advanced Topics in Infectious Diseases. Ten Ph.D. and two master’s students have completed degrees with Momany and she has served on graduate advisory committees for more than 80 other students. She has mentored seven postdoctoral fellows and approximately 25 undergraduates in her lab.
“Dr. Momany’s academic excellence has been widely recognized on the national level as well as broadly on the University of Georgia campus,” said Alan Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College. “Her invaluable contributions to the university as a campus leader is a direct function of her devotion to research, teaching, and mentoring so many students into next-generation scientists. We are fortunate to have her as a trusted colleague and to elated to honor her achievement of this important career distinction.”