Dow AgroSciences Researcher Named "Scientist of the Year"

Thomas Sparks has revolutionized pesticide products within the green industry.

November 2, 2009
Industry News

INDIANAPOLIS  – Dow AgroSciences researcher Thomas Sparks, Ph.D., has been named "Scientist of the Year" by R&D Magazine, a leading technical trade magazine.

The annual award recognizes one individual who has shown leadership in a fundamental scientific discovery that has made a significant contribution to his organization or the community within the past five years.  The Scientist of the Year stands out in many other ways: the quantity of his patents and papers, his ability to capitalize on new ideas to produce useful results, and the impact his work has had on both the scientific community and the world in general.  The winner was chosen by a voting panel and the editors of R&D Magazine.

Sparks, Dow AgroSciences Insect Management group advisor based in Indianapolis, Ind., is one of the first researchers to innovate in the area of spinosyn chemistry, which has revolutionized pesticide products by promoting the incorporation of green chemistry principles into chemical design, manufacture and use of insecticides.  He, with contributions from numerous other Dow AgroSciences scientists, pioneered the conceptualization, discovery, and advancement of spinetoram, an insecticidal natural product in the spinosyn family that was recognized with a 2008 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

“When faced with a difficult problem in the development of new molecules based on the spinosad chemistry, Sparks, with the help of a network of capable scientists at Dow AgroSciences, was able to apply artificial neural network software to design spinetoram,” says Paul Livingstone, senior editor at R&D Magazine. “His ability to adapt to the situation may have saved years of R&D. This approach is now being used to develop other products and chemistries.”

Sparks will be honored on Nov. 12 at R&D Magazine's 47th Annual R&D 100 Awards Banquet in Orlando, Fla.

A resident of Greenfield, Ind., Sparks, 58, has worked at Dow AgroSciences since the company was established in 1989.  Sparks is the author of numerous articles in leading journals and holds two patents, with eight additional patents pending. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Fresno, and a Ph.D. in entomology from University of California, Riverside.

Sparks has also won or shared several prestigious scientific honors, including the Paul Dahm Memorial Lecture in Toxicology, Iowa State University (2002), Arthur E. Schwarting Award for Best Paper (2006), the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for spinetoram (2008), Michigan Green Chemistry Governor’s Award (2009), as well as numerous Dow AgroSciences awards for leadership and innovation.  He is a member of the American Chemical Society, Entomological Society of America, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists, Cheminformatics and Modeling Society, Society for Biomolecular Sciences, and Pesticide Science Society of Japan.