Parag R. Chitnis, Ph.D.


Acting Director
US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Dr. Parag Chitnis was named acting director of the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in July 2020. Chitnis leads strategic oversight and implementation of NIFA’s programs, which invest $1.75 billion for research and extension activities in food and agricultural sciences. Before his current appointment, Chitnis was NIFA’s associate director responsible for the agency’s Kansas City staff and functions.

He came to NIFA in 2015 as the deputy director for Institute of Food Production and Sustainability. Prior to joining NIFA, he was the director for the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF). At both NIFA and NSF, Chitnis led initiatives at the interface of different disciplines, including biological sciences, agricultural sciences, physical sciences, computer science, engineering and social sciences.

In his academic career, Chitnis was a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology at Iowa State University and was an assistant professor in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University. As a researcher and educator at these universities, he received more than $7 million in research, education and training grants from federal and private sources including funding from NIFA, NSF, NIH, US-Israel BARD, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Iowa Corn Promotion Board. He has authored over 110 peer-reviewed or invited publications in the areas of plant biochemistry, photosynthesis, computational biology and proteomics. He has mentored over 50 undergraduate students, master and Ph.D. students, post-doctoral fellows and AAAS fellows. Chitnis has a bachelor’s degree in botany/plant breeding from the Konkan Agricultural University in India, a master’s degree in genetics and plant breeding from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute and Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Los Angeles.

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