Complementing his many and varied achievements over the course of an extremely successful career, Dr. Karl Dawson, chairman of Alltech’s scientific advisory board, has been inducted into the Animal and Food Sciences Hall of Fame in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky. The annual award, the highest that the department can bestow, recognizes someone who has made outstanding contributions to the department and to Kentucky animal agriculture.
A nomination letter submitted for Dr. Dawson highlights the achievements that merit this honor:
“Dr. Dawson is an individual who has spent most of his life dedicated to agriculture: living it, teaching it, researching it, improving it and making it more efficient,” the letter reads. “However, through both his careers in academia and industry, his greatest impact on agriculture in Kentucky and the world is likely the legion of agricultural scientists that he has mentored, developed and supported to continue advancing the future of agriculture.”
The late Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder of Alltech and Dr. Dawson’s friend of nearly 40 years, was also inducted into the hall of fame in 2011.
“I never dreamed I would get close to this recognition,” said Dr. Dawson. “I have seen many distinguished scientists inducted into the Animal and Food Sciences Hall of Fame over the years, and it is my great honor and privilege to be included among them. Any impact I’ve had is due to the tremendous people around me, and I look forward to continuing our important work.”
Dr. Dawson began his career in academia in 1979 in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky. In 1999, he accepted a position as director of global research at Alltech, and from 2011 to 2019, he served as vice president and chief scientific officer at Alltech. Today, he continues to work with Alltech in a consulting role, and he is also an adjunct professor of nutritional microbiology in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky.
As chief scientific officer at Alltech, Dr. Dawson directed all activities at the Alltech bioscience centers around the world, including the Alltech Center for Animal Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition in Nicholasville. He also led scientific programs for the research team of more than 140 members, directed annual programs for graduate students around the world and headed the activities of Alltech’s more than 20 research alliances.
His lifetime research has focused on strategies for improving animal performance and health by altering microbial activities and digestive processes in the gastrointestinal tract. Of particular interest are strategies that use antimicrobials and substrate availability to beneficially alter microbial populations in the digestive tract. He championed Alltech’s nutrigenomics and epigenetics research, which have led to nutritional programming strategies that are being tested as alternatives to the use of growth promotants, changing the face of nutritional science in agriculture.
“Dr. Dawson’s strength as a researcher and teacher lies in his in-depth understanding of the many different aspects of animal agriculture, as opposed to the very focused area of expertise that most specialists have,” his nomination letter reads. “His excellent grasp of how the future of farming and agriculture is shifting and changing allowed him to focus his research in areas long before they were truly relevant, such as the need for proven alternatives for in-feed antibiotics.”
Indeed, the 122 research papers that Dr. Dawson has authored or co-authored have been cited more than 3,100 times to date; peers in his field are validating the quality of their own work by recognizing his work as a benchmark.
Dr. Dawson continues to have a true passion for education, teaching and science. At the University of Kentucky, he developed an individualized degree program in agricultural biotechnology and advised undergraduate students in the program.
At Alltech, he started an internship in his lab that offered competitive and valuable real-life educational experience to young students interested in science. Dr. Dawson was also involved in the Alltech Young Scientist competition and Alltech Innovation Competition.
“Most of the programs that Dr. Dawson has developed at Alltech over the years have had a strong education and student development component to it,” the nomination letter points out. “When one considers this, it is somewhat unique for an animal feed industry-based company. However, it serves as evidence of Dr. Dawson’s dedication toward furthering education in the field of agriculture.”
Dr. Dawson was integral in forming the alliances with Coldstream Research at the University of Kentucky, which focuses on poultry production research, and the Alltech-UK nutrigenomic alliance with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky Graduate Center for Nutritional Sciences. They have worked with Alltech to make the state of Kentucky a leader in the field of nutrigenomics by supporting a variety of research projects.
His passion for education, teaching and young people extended beyond his day-to-day job as well. Dr. Dawson sent members of his science team to area schools to showcase experiments and involved them in local science fairs. He is also always willing to participate in discussion panels, as the letter notes, “to help bridge the gap between what academic programs teach, and what the industries need.”
“Alltech’s research achievements in Kentucky and successful alliances with UK are a credit to Dr. Dawson’s dedication and vision,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech. “He has empowered the research of today and the breakthroughs of tomorrow by inspiring others in the field of animal science.”