Bowen graduated from Penn State in 1980 with a degree in plant sciences. After graduation, she went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. Bowen then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at North Carolina State University under the mentorship of Penn State Alumni Fellow Dr. Steven Leath, who now is the president of North Carolina State University.

Bowen joined the faculty at Auburn University as a professor of plant pathology in 1988. She is a plant disease epidemiologist whose research on peanut aflatoxin has had a direct impact on peanut and corn production as well as on consumers in the United States and abroad. Collectively, her work has garnered more than $1 million in research grants.

In addition to research, Bowen has made a significant impact in the field of plant pathology. Through teaching, she has impacted the careers of hundreds of students, many of whom have become leaders in their own right. She has authored dozens of book chapters, scholarly articles, reports and publications and serves as vice president of the American Phytopathology Society, the premier scientific society dedicated to plant pathology research and education, and as an editor for the society's journal, Plant Disease.

Bowen received the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award from Auburn University and was recognized as an Outstanding Alumna of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota. She is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association and a member of the Golden Lion Society. In addition to receiving the Outstanding Alumni Award, she also was inducted into the College of Agricultural Sciences Armsby Honor Society in 2017.

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