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OCC Grad Vince Hustad, pursuing Botany PhD


Vincent Hustad
Vincent Hustad, PhD Candidate

Vincent Hustad, of Champaign, received his Associate’s Degree from OCC in 2004, and is currently a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is pursuing a PhD.D. in plant biology with a mycology concentration. 

Hustad’s work has already drawn national attention. The Botanical Society of America named Hustad as its Young Botanist of the Year in 2006. His oral presentation at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences’ annual meeting in 2008 was selected best in the botanical division. 

OCC recognized Hustad’s outstanding accomplishments by presenting him with the 2010 Alumni Award in May.

“I’m honored to receive the award,” said Hustad. “Most of the past recipients have accomplished a lot more than I have and I see this award as a challenge. I think I’ll make OCC proud and live up to the high standards set by previous recipients.” 

Hustad earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biological sciences from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. It was during this time he became interested in mycology, which is the study of fungi. While attending EIU, he received numerous awards including the

  • Everett E. and Maizee Warner Presidential Award in Botany
  • Ernest L. Stover Award, H.F. Thut Botany Award
  • Charles E. and Ferne Tingley Compton Botany Scholarship

He served as a graduate teaching assistant at EIU and spent a summer working as a mycology laboratory assistant for the Illinois Natural History Survey. Hustad has served as a graduate research assistant at U of I, working with the DNA of fungal fruiting bodies. 

Hustad’s research experience includes a survey of discomycete fungi in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The study resulted in 35 new records of species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park described to date. Hustad also investigated the ecology of terrestrial macrofungi occurring in old growth remnants of a prairie grove in Illinois. 
In addition, Hustad has conducted research on coprophilous fungi, which are fungi that grow on animal dung. The surveys targeted horses in Coles County and recently re-introduced elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hustad’s work resulted in 24 new records of species for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Hustad's doctoral research project is a study of the Geoglossomycetes or earth tongue fungi, using DNA to examine interspecies relationships. Earth tongue fungi are found on every continent except Antarctica, and are associated with many different plant hosts including conifers and deciduous trees. 

“Their association with trees is very important,” Hustad added. “The difference between those with the fungi and those without is striking. It is unbelievable how very important they are. This group is very understudied and I am very excited to have the opportunity to work on them.” 

Since 2005, Hustad has received numerous research grants including a Discover Life in America Research Grant, Fungi in Environmental Sampling Investigators Network Grant, EIU Graduate Student Investigator Award, EIU Williams Travel Award and EIU Undergraduate Research Grant. 

Hustad became interested in botany while attending OCC. 
“I had botany classes with Jim Burnett and the way he taught was great. It was a good class for someone interested in those sorts of things,” he said. “Chris Mathews’ dedication and love for teaching that he showed during my time at OCC also was a great influence on my early biological career.” Hustad also credits instructors Bill Tucker and Lisa Benson with paving the way for his success at Eastern. 

“Bill Tucker’s classes were excellent. He showed us how to write and I learned skills that have been very important to me. He made his English classes fun and I really enjoyed them,” Hustad said. “The skills I learned in Lisa Benson’s statistics class I use almost every day. I liked the small classes at OCC and there was a lot of opportunity for one-on-one interaction with the instructors. The availability of the faculty was great. There was never a time I went to meet faculty that they weren’t available.” 
Hustad said he felt well prepared when he transferred to EIU. 

“My experience at OCC was excellent and gave me a good foundation,” he said. “It did an excellent job preparing me for what was to come. It was truly enjoyable. When I got to EIU, I think I was actually more prepared than the other students.” 

Hustad is a member of the Association of Southeastern Biologists, Botanical Society of America, Illinois State Academy of Sciences, Illinois Mycological Society, North American Mycological Association, Missouri Mycological Association, Mycological Society of America and Phi Sigma Honors Society. He is an associate member of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. 
Hustad, who is in the second year of his doctorate program, hopes to complete his Ph.D. in Spring 2013. He plans to continue researching and teaching in the area of mycology.

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