Cornish has over 30 years of experience in rubber biosynthesis, physiology, germplasm improvement, production systems innovation and alternative feedstocks in the government, commercial and university sectors. She also is the founder and CEO of EnergyEne Inc., and her developments have been foundational to the start-up of numerous companies, including PanAridus, Yulex, Edison Agrisciences, American Sustainable Rubber and Farmed Materials.
She also is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has published over 289 articles, is inventor or co-inventor of 39 patents and has filed more than 50 invention disclosures at OSU, more than half with student inventors.
"The amount of high-quality work that (Cornish) and her students have put out for both guayule and TKS rubber has been outstanding," Howard Colvin of Colvin Consultants said in his letter of support for Cornish, where he highlighted her work with guayule and TKS.
Cornish earned her bachelor's degree in biological sciences in 1978 and her doctorate in plant biology in 1982 from the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston, England. She first began rubber R&D work in 1987 at Arizona State University and was hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1989 to lead their program in biotechnological production of NR.
"The field of rubber science and technology, and the industry that supports it, is rapidly expanding temperate climate rubber crop agriculture in the United States and Europe, in many cases due to Professor Cornish's exceptional contributions," Colleen McMahan, lead scientist of domestic natural rubber for the USDA, said in her letter of support. "She is, indeed, the principal innovator of a suite of technologies key to government and industrial investment in domestic natural rubber in the United States and around the world."
After 15 years at USDA, she moved to her industrial partner, Yulex Corp., for six years, where she developed the company's IP property portfolio and numerous new products. She began working for OSU in 2010.
Cornish leads the OSU-led PENRA (Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives), an industrial academic consortium focused on "alternate rubber production, bio-based fillers and exploitation of opportunity feedstocks from agriculture and food processing wastes for value-added products and biofuels," according to the Rubber Division.
"Without Cornish's remarkable insight, integrity, focus and tenacity, there would be no possibility of generating alternative natural rubber production for decades to come," Puskas said.
Cornish co-wrote the EU-PEARLS proposal, which received €7.7 million (about $8.4 million today) in funding, according to Puskas' nomination, and collaborated with the EU-PEARLS project from 2008-13.
Puskas also highlighted Cornish's role in Bridgestone's commitment of over $125 million for guayule development, as well as Cooper's, Goodyear's and Ford's investments in guayule and dandelion research and development.
Cornish has received over 20 awards from the late-1990s through 2023, and "many minor awards from conferences, societies and USDA-ARS."
Most recently, Cornish's awards include the OSU College of Engineering's 2023 Innovator of the Year and the 2023 OSU CFAES Distinguished Multi-disciplinary Research Team Award. She also received the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bioenvironmental Polymer Society.
"I can unequivocally state that there is no one in the world who has had such a major impact on the development of alternative rubber crops, globally, as she," said Tom Marsh, chief operating officer and chief technical officer of Pioneer Worldwide.
Marsh was the former president and CEO of Centrotrade, a Yulex distribution partner for guayule latex, when Cornish joined Yulex as senior vice president of R&D in 2004.
The Charles Goodyear Medal, named for the discoverer of the vulcanization of rubber, was established in 1941 and honors individuals for "outstanding invention, innovation or development which has resulted in a significant change or contribution to the nature of the rubber industry."
This year's 2023 honoree was Christopher Macosko for his work in developing basic relations for crosslinking polymerization.
"Dr. Cornish's crusading spirit has pioneered and championed the development of alternative rubber crops around the world for over three decades," Puskas said. "I venture to say that all the many current efforts focused on guayule and rubber dandelion owe their existence, at least to some degree, to her."