Bugbee graduated from Penn State in 1981 with a doctorate in horticulture. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree at the University of California, Davis. He arrived at Utah State University at a postdoctoral researcher and subsequently joined the faculty, rising to full professor in 1996.

As a professor of environmental plant physiology in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate, Bugbee's research has included more than 30 years of NASA-funded projects. His work focuses on food production in regenerative environments for use on space stations. He recently was awarded funding to work as part of a multi-university institute, where he will characterize plant growth in the space environment and Mars habitat.

Over the course of his career, Bugbee has authored or co-authored more than 150 journal articles, book chapters and an edited book. In 2016, he was the recipient of the D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award, the most prestigious research accolade at Utah State. He also received the State of Utah's Governor's Award for Science and Technology in 2012.

Bugbee has given speeches and presented the results of his research to universities and audiences across the globe, including at conferences in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China and Brazil. In 1996, he started his own business, Apogee Instruments, which today is a leading manufacturer of research-grade instrumentation related to precision irrigation scheduling, climate change research and plant response to the environment.

In addition to the Outstanding Alumni Award, Bugbee was induced into the College of Agricultural Sciences Armsby Honor Society in 2017.

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