WOOSTER, Ohio â It wasnât one of her New Yearâs resolutions, but Ohio State University researcher Linda Saif is equally excited about the news she received just a few days into 2003. A scientist and professor with the universityâs Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Saif has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Belgiumâs Ghent University, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Europe. "It was a great surprise," said Saif, who works at OARDCâs Food Animal Health Research Program. "Iâm really flattered and honored by this award, especially because Ghent is a very esteemed university." Ghentâs executive committee decided to confer the distinction to Saif "as an acknowledgment of [her] outstanding scientific achievements," according to a letter signed by the universityâs vice rector, M. De Clercq. Saif is known nationally and internationally for her work on enteric diseases, mainly rotaviruses and caliciviruses, which affect both food-producing animals and humans. Throughout her 30-plus year career, she has identified new intestinal viruses and developed diagnostic tests and research methods for working with them in the laboratory. Hailed by her colleagues as "the worldâs foremost authority on the immune response of newborns to intestinal infections" and "the most outstanding virologist and immunologist in the research field that deals with gastrointestinal viruses," Saif is currently working on the development of vaccines to prevent rotavirus diarrhea, which kills nearly one million children every year. "Linda Saif is a world-class scientist," said OARDC director Steve Slack. "The conferral of this honorary degree is testament to the regard in which her scientific contributions are held." The award ceremony will take place March 14. Saif will be joined by five other university researchers and scholars from around the world, whose prominent careers have also earned them the doctorate honoris causa from Ghent. One of the awardees is Richard Epstein, a University of Chicago Law School professor famous for his controversial books on the theory of limited state powers. The third American recognized by Ghent is Harvard University evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin, one of the most influential geneticists and philosophers of science during the past three decades. "Iâm very excited to be in the company of such distinguished colleagues," Saif said. "It makes this award an even bigger honor." Saif earned her B.A. from the College of Wooster in 1969. She then received her M.S. (1971) and Ph.D. (1976) degrees in microbiology/immunology from Ohio State. She has been an OARDC faculty member since 1979, garnering more than $14 million in research grants and publishing numerous articles in books and professional journals. In 2002, Saif became the first Ohio State researcher not based on the Columbus campus to be recognized as a Distinguished University Professor, the highest honor the university bestows upon faculty for their accomplishments in research, scholarly or creative work, teaching and service. OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State Universityâs College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.