Texas Tech University

Passion, High Expectations Help Davis College Professor Excel

Allen Ramsey

March 2, 2022

Peter Dotray received a 2022 Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

In February, the Texas Tech University System announced its 2022 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Awards to honor outstanding faculty members who provide exceptional opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting the eight Texas Tech University faculty members who were recognized. 

Peter Dotray
Peter Dotray

Peter Dotray believes passion for the subject matter can be infectious and, coupled with high expectations of his students and himself, will result in effective teaching.

Raised as the eighth of nine children in a family that stressed the value of education, Dotray found a love for research during his time as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.

Later, as he completed his master's degree at Washington State University and returned to Minnesota to complete his doctorate, he found he had a knack for teaching. Dotray joined Texas Tech's faculty in 1993 and has maintained his passion and those high expectations for himself and his students ever since.

As the Rockwell Chair of Weed Science in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, housed within the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Dotray holds a joint appointment with Texas Tech, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He also teaches RaiderReady: The Freshman Seminar, and has mentored nearly 40 graduate students, all while leading efforts to develop effective and economical weed management systems in cotton and other crops grown in rotation with cotton.

As a result of this dedication, he's being honored with a 2022 Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

The Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching and Research Awards are given to individuals who exemplify teaching or research excellence and who have significantly advanced teaching or research efforts and are noted as leaders among colleagues and in their respective fields. Established in 2001, they are the highest honors given to Texas Tech University System faculty members. 

Can you describe your research and its impact, both in academics and society?

My research focuses on the development of effective, sustainable, and profitable weed management systems in row crops. We study weed management systems and assist growers in making sound input decisions to manage weeds. We monitor and test for the development and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. Information from our research trials is delivered to growers and pesticide applicators and brought into the classroom. Graduate students are involved in all our field and greenhouse trials, and they make presentations at local, state and national meetings. This helps develop their communication skills and gives them good exposure when they talk about their research to growers, applicators, consultants, allied industry and academic professionals.

What projects are you working on at this time?

Some of our current research involves weed management systems in new cotton and sorghum technologies that have yet to be released for public use. We study developing technologies so, when released, our research can assist in making sound and sustainable weed management recommendations. Additional projects we currently are working on include surveying and confirming new herbicide-resistant weed developments in the area and investigating the impacts of off-target herbicide movement. Recently, we completed a five-year project examining the viability of weed seeds over time when buried at different depths and at different locations across the state. This data helps reinforce other research projects we currently are working on by stressing the importance of effective and sustainable weed control practices.

What areas are you interested in for future research?

Future research studies will examine new herbicide-tolerant crop technologies. In collaborative research projects, we will explore the possibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to identify weedy locations in the field and deliver herbicides specifically to those areas. We will examine technology that will identify weeds and make control decisions “on the go.” Other areas we continue to study include weed biology and ecology, because a better understanding of the pests we are trying to control should help us make sound control recommendations.

What rewards do you get from teaching?

I have high expectations for all my students and challenge them to have an understanding of a significant amount of information that is known about weeds and management strategies. I like to share my weed science research experience from a diversity of crops and geographical regions. My courses incorporate many science disciplines including botany, physiology, biochemistry, breeding, and soils with a focus on weeds and weed management. It is rewarding to see students master challenging concepts and become effective problem solvers. My passion for weed science can be infectious and we need to train the next generation of farmers, consultants, university, industry and government professionals. It is very rewarding to hear from students who still use the information they learned in class years after graduation.

What motivated you to pursue a career in academia?

As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, I was a part-time student worker in a weed control research lab. I helped graduate students, technicians, and project leaders with their research and found the discovery of information from field and greenhouse experiments very stimulating. As a graduate research assistant, I continued to gain research experience in the field and lab but also volunteered to teach to see if a teaching profession was a possible career path for me. I also had the opportunity to speak directly to growers, which is a different but very important type of teaching.

How has Texas Tech helped you advance your research and teaching?

Texas Tech provides state-of-the-art classrooms with multimedia capabilities. Our department has been a leader in distance education and the equipment in our classrooms makes it easy to record and post lectures within minutes of leaving the classroom. The Teaching, Learning & Professional Development Center at Texas Tech has exceptional staff ready to help faculty with their teaching needs. We also have field, lab and greenhouse space to conduct our research and help train graduate students.

Who has had the biggest impact on you and your career, and why?

I'm not sure where to start on this one or how many pages I have to answer this question correctly. It started with how I was raised. I was the eighth of nine children, and my parents provided all the love and support for us to learn, explore, travel, make good decisions and use our God-given talents to the best of our abilities. They also taught us how to respect others. My parents stressed the importance of education, even at a very young age, and provided all the support -- mentally, financially, spiritually -- I needed to be successful. I spent many summers with my grandpa, Frank, who also stressed the importance of a college education.

My undergraduate and graduate school mentors were Dr. Bob Andersen, Dr. Frank Young, Dr. Doug Buhler, Dr. Monte Weimer and Dr. Don Wyse. My wife has also been very supportive of my career goals and has made many sacrifices for me to focus on my professional career. We are the proud parents of five beautiful and unique children who help put it all in perspective. The most important teaching I do is leading by example, inside and outside the classroom.