COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Two people have been named as lead candidates for the top agriculture position for Texas A&M University System, the search committee announced.

Elsa Murano and John Owens will be interviewed by the Board of Regents who will make the final decision. One of them will become vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences and director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. Dr. Ed Hiler will retire from that position Aug. 31.

Murano is currently U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for food safety. Owens is University of Nebraska vice president and Neal and Leone Harlan vice chancellor.

Since being appointed to the USDA position by President Bush in 2001, Murano has been on leave of absence as a professor in the department of animal science at Texas A&M. She joined the faculty in 1995 and was director of the Texas A&M Institute for Food Science and Engineering-Center for Food Safety from 1997-2001.

She was assistant professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and preventive medicine at Iowa State University from 1990-95. Her bachelor’s in biological sciences was from Florida International University in 1981; masters in anaerobic microbiology and doctorate in food science and technology were from Virginia Polytechnic in 1987 and 1990, respectively.

Owens spent much of his career with New Mexico State University. He currently is executive vice president and chief academic officer emeritus having served in that capacity from 1997-99. He began there as associate professor in 1977 and was promoted to professor, head of the department of entomology, and dean and chief administrative officer for the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station and New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service.

Prior to his service in New Mexico, Owens was assistant professor of entomology at Iowa State University from 1971-75 and associate professor of entomology at Texas Tech University from 1975-76. He was an entomologist for Pioneer Hi-Bred International from 1976-77.

Owens earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from West Texas A&M University in 1966 a master’s in entomology from Texas Tech in 1969 and a doctorate in entomology from Iowa State University in 1971.

Kathleen Phillips is a writer for Texas A&M University.

e-mail: ka-phillips@tamu.edu