Dr. Dionne Toombs is the acting director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) – United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) extramural grant funding agency for agricultural research, education and Extension programs across the nation.
Previously, Toombs served as the director of the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS), where she provided leadership on a wide range of issues affecting science programs and science policy in agricultural research, education and economics. She directed and coordinated activities of OCS to strengthen science and science leadership, improve national coordination and enhance outreach and awareness.
Toombs provided scientific leadership and coordination to the White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Science and Technology Council working groups, across USDA and other federal agencies, along with the agricultural community. As director, she managed the information OCS provides the Secretary of Agriculture and USDA science agencies, ensuring the scientific research and advice are held to the highest standards of intellectual rigor and scientific integrity. She spearheaded collaboration with USDA advisory boards and builds partnerships with the scientific community.
With over 20 years of USDA service, Toombs has significantly contributed to USDA’s agricultural research, education and Extension services while serving in various leadership roles, including heading the Division of Nutrition at NIFA. In this role, she led USDA nutrition science leaders who helped steer science policy and program development to ensure the nation’s food supply is safe, nutritious and accessible to all citizens. Toombs has been repeatedly featured as one of USDA’s most impactful female scientists and recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture for outstanding leadership.
Additionally, Toombs served as the national program leader for NIFA’s Agriculture Food and Research Initiative, leading large competitive grant programs to fund research into nutrition, food science and technology, and food safety. These research investments include helping rural, low-income, minority and at-risk populations make more informed food choices and become more physically active. Prior to that, Toombs was a program specialist for Food Science and Nutrition at the former USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, now NIFA. She started at USDA as a student intern at USDA’s Agricultural r Research Service.
Throughout her career, Toombs has helped her colleagues, staff and students maximize their potential by bolstering their talents and developing their leadership skills. Always willing to champion the next generation of scientists, she often emphasizes the importance of relationship building, citing collaboration as a key to her success.
Toombs holds a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences from Howard University, master’s degree in food science from Alabama A&M University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Bethune-Cookman University.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, practicing Pilates, participating in community service projects and learning how to play golf.