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First FFAR Grantees: Meet the 2016 New Innovators

Sally Rockey, Ph.D.

Executive Director Emeritus

Today I am honored to announce the first scientists to receive Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research grants. Our New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award program sought talented individuals working toward innovation in their respective fields and working in FFAR research topic areas. Applicants were selected on scientific merit, as well as demonstrated commitment to mentoring; it is our hope that these talented individuals will not only go on to make significant contributions to the food and agriculture enterprise, but also inspire other young scientists to follow in their footsteps. Our great partners in these awards are the home institutions of the awardees who will provide half the funding for these outstanding individuals.  We thank the institutions for not only nominating a inspiring cadre of talent from which we chose, but demonstrating their support of their faculty and the FFAR mission through the match that was provided.

Without further ado, the following are the nine New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award winners:

Nutrition and Healthy Food Choices

  • Mary Anne Roshni Amalaradjou, Ph.D., University of Connecticut

Dr. Amalaradjou will investigate the effect of dairy foods on gut health using mice as a model.

  • Geoffrey Fisher, Ph.D., Cornell University

Dr. Fisher will explore new ways of promoting healthy food choices through using a variety of eye tracking techniques to investigate how attention to food attributes such as healthiness, tastiness, calories and packaging, might affect food purchasing decisions.

Plant Efficiency

  • Mary Jamieson, Ph.D., Oakland University

Dr. Jamieson will use her New Innovator grant to investigate beneficial insects and the ecosystem services they provide, such as pollination and pest control, in urban agriculture environments.

  • Anjali Iyer-Pascuzzi, Ph.D., Purdue University

Dr. Iyer-Pascuzzie seeks to improve plant disease mitigation by investigating which genes are associated with root-mediated resistance, how diseases changes root architecture and whether roots and shoots signal each other to suppress disease symptoms

Soil Health

  • Amelie Gaudin, Ph.D., University of California, Davis

Dr. Gaudin’s research will explore the relationship between root systems, soil health promoting practices and crop productivity in order to shed light on how breeders and producers can grow more productive and resilient crops using sustainable practices at a large scale.

  • Lisa Tiemann, Ph.D., Michigan State University

Dr. Tiemann’s research will focus on the interactions between crop diversity, soil microorganisms and soil organic matter and how they may be managed to enhance soil services and sustainably increase crop yields.

Sustainable farm animal productivity, resilience and health

  • Crystal Levesque, Ph.D., South Dakota State University

Dr. Levesque aims to increase protein production from pigs, while reducing inputs and environmental impacts through her research on dietary requirements during sow pregnancy.

  • Benjamin Reading, Ph.D., North Carolina State University

Dr. Reading will use artificial intelligence to determine the genetic factors responsible for heterosis, or instances of offspring performing better than their parents, in hybrid striped bass.

Water Use

  • Isaya Kisekka, Ph.D., Kansas State University

Dr. Kisekka’s research will integrate data related to agricultural water use from a number of sources including soils, weather and plant-based measurements to develop methods and tools for optimizing water use in agriculture.

Each research award recipient is doing impactful work that will fill critical gaps in one of FFAR’s seven research areas. I look forward to following and sharing the New Innovators’ progress on their research projects under the New Innovator program and the continued success that will surely follow.

I encourage you to take a look at all nine projects and the impressive individuals pursuing them and invite you to learn more about the program in our press release. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus