Professor Emeritus James Seiber was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award from the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology, thanking him for his many contributions in research, mentorship, philanthropy and continued support of the program.
“Professor Seiber has been a true pioneer in the field of environmental chemistry, particularly in identifying the role of chemical fate in altering the toxic actions of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals,” said Ron Tjeerdema, executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Tjeerdema was one of several who celebrated the award at the Seiber household, including department chair Robert Rice and Seiber’s wife, Rita, and son, Chuck.
Dedicated to protecting people and the planet
Throughout his professional life, Seiber has conducted research on the interaction between agricultural and environmental systems, solving real-life challenges such as those contributing to the health of agricultural workers, the general public, and fish and wildlife populations.
Seiber excelled in a broad range of research and administrative roles in academia, government and industry. His career began at Utah State University, where he earned his Ph.D. while studying the bioactivity and toxicity of plant constituents. Following a stint with Dow Chemical Company, he joined the UC Davis faculty in 1969 and focused on contaminants in crops and food. His studies on how chemicals enter the food chain and the atmosphere have led to better methods of preventing human exposure and protecting the environment.
His administrative accomplishments at UC Davis include chair of the Department of Environmental Toxicology, chair of the Department of Food Science and Technology, and CA&ES associate dean for research. In 1992, Seiber left UC Davis for a time to lead the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. From 1998 to 2010, he served as director of the Western Regional Research Center, a USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratory working on the nutritional value of food, improving crops with better disease resistance and fighting foodborne pathogens. He also served as editor of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry from 1999-2014.
A lifetime of giving back
Philanthropy has always been central to the Seibers’ involvement with UC Davis. Examples of their support include:
- James and Rita Seiber Fellowship for Innovation in International Agricultural Research —provides financial support to graduate students participating in innovative international agricultural research programs within CA&ES that address challenges to global food security
- James and Rita Seiber International Graduate Student Award—supports top international graduate students in food science and technology or agricultural and environmental chemistry
The Seibers have also supported a number of UC Davis students on short-term projects through the Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA). Jim and Rita Seiber also give generously to numerous programs across campus, as well. Professor Seiber previously served as a trustee on the UC Davis Foundation Board of Trustees.
In addition to the lifetime achievement award from his colleagues in environmental toxicology, Seiber has received other noteworthy acknowledgements. In 2018, he was the first emeritus professor to receive a CA&ES Award of Distinction. In 2020, he also was the first recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Agrochemicals Division Lifetime Achievement Award. Qing Li, one of Seiber’s former graduate students and now a professor at the University of Hawaii, helped nominate him for the award.
“He was honored in recognition of his sustained dedicated service to the agrochemicals division and his extraordinary scientific impact in the field of agrochemicals,” Li said. “He was a great mentor to me, a real role model, and an innovative scientist. He has accomplished so much!”