CEFS Graduate Student Fellowships
Scroll down to meet our Graduate Student Fellows!
CEFS Graduate Fellows Program at NC State University
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems NC State University Graduate Fellows Program was developed to provide financial support and recognition for the future leaders, researchers and contributors in sustainable agriculture and local food systems while they pursue academic research to further the field of study. More information…
Please note, the deadline to apply for the 2018/2019 Graduate Fellowships has passed.
Jordan Cox-O’Neill | Ph.D. Student | Animal Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Carrie Pickworth
Jordan’s research pertains to grazing stocker cattle on winter cover crops following corn grain harvest to provide economic and environmental benefits for crop farmers. This systems approach is targeted to best utilize available resources while maintaining overall sustainability. Animal performance, soil health, corn grain yield, and cover crop forage production will be monitored during the grazing and crop production process and an economic analysis will be performed. She hopes this project validates the importance and beneficial gain of diversifying farms through crop-livestock integration. Her diverse disciplinary project attempts to analyze the whole system in an effort to provide valuable information to farmers and ranchers as they make important operation decisions.
Jinlong Han | Ph.D. Student | Plant Pathology | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Dorith Rotenberg
Tomato spotted wilt orthotospovirus (TSWV) is transmitted by minute insects called thrips. Jinlong’s research is focused on the interaction between TSWV and western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), which is one of the most widely distributed and efficient transmitters of TSWV worldwide and locally in North Carolina. The initial infection of thrips gut tissue by TSWV is prerequisite for successful virus transmission to plants. Jinlong will investigate the biological response of gut tissue before and after virus infection at gene level and to identify which molecules within thrips gut tissue will interact with viruses for initiating the infection process. The ultimate goal of this research is to integrate the latest findings in virus-insect interaction with all other practical controls for developing and optimizing the alternative, sustainable strategies.
Tim Kloppe | Ph.D. Student | Plant Pathology | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Christina Cowger
Diversion from GAP guidelines caused a loss in fungicide efficacy and a breakdown of resistance in wheat production systems against the common fungal, powdery mildew disease in North Carolina and across the world. A very recent breakdown of a highly effective and durable resistance mechanism has led Tim to characterize the molecular-genetic relationship of wheat and the causal agent of the disease, Blumeria graminis f.sp. tritici (Bgt). He expends his research on the detection of the genes involved in this relationship by (1) collecting strains from Bgt-populations worldwide, (2) quantifying the potential of those strains to break plant resistance in machine-aided infection assays, (3) analyzing the DNA of those strains and (4) comparing those genetic signatures with the phenomenon of broken resistance.
Eliot Lee | MBA Candidate | Jenkins Graduate School of Management | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Dunning
CEFS Compass Group USA Graduate Fellow
Eliot’s studies are focused on understanding the current state of local, sustainable food value chains in the region to provide recommendations and possible solutions to developing more equitable and efficient processes. He will be supporting Compass Group’s efforts to drive compliance in product specification and sustainability initiatives. Prior to graduate school, he was an intern on the Small Farm Unit at CEFS’ CEFS Field Research, Education, and Outreach Facility at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro.
Joseph Milone | Ph.D. Student | Entomology | NC State
Advisor: Dr. David R. Tarpy
Honey bee colonies are challenged by a variety of stressors simultaneously, including chemical exposure from multiple pesticides. Joe’s work takes a top-down approach to pollinator toxicology and utilizes pesticide residue data from commercial honey bee colonies to test field-relevant mixtures of chemicals and their effects on colony health. His current project seeks to better understand the impact of pesticides on queen reproductive health and the potential for interactions between pathogens and pesticides. Testing pesticide mixtures and their interactions with alternative stressors allows for a higher degree of realism and helps build on existing research focusing on single pesticides and stressors.
Matthew Smith | MS Student | Crop and Soil Sciences | NC State
Advisor: Dr. James B. Holland
Matthew’s research focuses on southeastern-adapted heirloom food corn varieties. He is selecting within individual heirloom populations to maintain the food quality and original genetic makeup of these varieties while improving agronomic traits for the modern grower. Matthew’s work is directed towards providing new options for small growers to serve their local communities with the high quality heirloom products that local chefs and consumers want without the profitability concerns of unimproved heirlooms.
Andrew Smolski | Ph.D. Student | Sociology | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Stefano B. Longo
Andrew’s research investigates the impact of social structure on the development of sustainable agri-food systems. This involves examining how access to resources, property rights, and decision-making affects the ability of participants in the local food movement to enact their goals. With this research, Andrew seeks to increase the urban capacity for socially just and sustainable agricultural production. In ongoing research, he and co-authors use historical and statistical data to analyze urban food distribution in Mexico City and New York City, publishing results that demonstrate the positive benefits of public infrastructure for more equitable outcomes.
Nicholas Basinger | Ph.D. Student | Horticultural Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Katie M. Jennings
Nicholas has a research focus on novel weed detection methods in agronomic and vegetable crop systems. His research focuses on utilizing specific light wavelengths, reflected off different plants to remotely distinguish weeds from crop species. One of his projects is to determine which wavelengths of light can be utilized for discriminating between plant species. His other project focuses on the impact various weed densities have on yields and the reflected wavelengths of light of soybean and sweet potato. Ultimately, the goal of these projects is to determine a remote weed detection method with the end result of managing weeds only where they are present.
Nicholas graduated in 2018. Visit his LinkedIn page here.
Sam Ingram | Ph.D. Student | Animal Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Matt Poore
Sam’s research focuses on the renovation of toxic infected tall fescue pastures utilizing no-till smother (cover) crops. Soil health, agronomic performance and animal performance will be monitored during the renovation strategy and an economic analysis will be performed. Sam also has projects in finishing cattle in a pasture-based system and transitioning forested area to perennial forage pasture utilizing cover crops. All projects attempt to analyze the whole system in an effort to provide valuable information to the farmer about what takes place on their operation. Sam is involved in educational outreach, working with the Amazing Grazing program as well as the North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council and believes this outreach is an effective tool to assist farmers in adopting new practices.
Lisa K. Johnson | Ph.D. Candidate | Horticultural Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Nancy Creamer
Lisa’s research brings the excitement surrounding food waste research to the often overlooked production level of the supply chain. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on understanding common farming practices and market policies that increase vegetable losses in the field, determining how much edible produce is left unharvested, and finding ways to increase the recovery of unharvested crops. Lisa completed her M.S. at the University of Georgia, also in Horticulture, where her research focused on the molecular physiology of fruit crops. She is rapidly becoming a national expert in on-farm food waste.
Lisa graduated in 2018. Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Marisol Mata | Masters Student | Horticultural Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Danesha Seth Carley
In today’s home gardening market, a large number of flower species are included in “pollinator-friendly” seed mixes but little is known about their actual nutritional quality for bees. Marisol’s research project focuses on growing several species of these native flowers in a controlled environment so as to determine the protein content found within their granules of pollen. She is also interested in learning whether changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature, fertilizer and CO2 levels affect the overall quality of the pollen.
Marisol graduated in 2018. Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Rachel Atwell | Ph.D. Candidate | Crop Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton
Rachel has research projects that focus on winter pea production in the Southeast and using cover crop mulches for weed suppression. Her first project focuses on screening winter pea genotypes for use as grain, forage and cover crops in the Southeast. Her other graduate student research focuses on using cover crop mulches for weed suppression in both organic and conventional cotton production. Rachel also completed her M.S. degree under the advisement of Chris Reberg-Horton where her research focused on cultural weed control tactics and fertility management in organic corn and canola production.
Rachel graduated in 2017. Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Angel Cruz | Ph.D. Candidate | Crop Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno
Angel is researching agroecology and soil conservation in El Salvador and how it impacts food security for smallholder farmers in rural El Salvador. Angel recently received a Fulbright Fellowship and a US Borlaug Global Food Security Graduate Research Award to fund her research.
Angel graduated in 2017. Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Johanna Elsensohn | Ph.D. Student | Entomology | NC State
Advisors: Dr. Hannah Burrack and Dr. Coby Schal
Johanna utilizes insights gained from basic biology research to help inform sustainable pest control strategies. She investigates how oviposition by female Drosophila suzukii, a globally invasive pest of small fruit crops, varies as a function of season, host quality, and pest density. These results will lead to better-informed, locally optimized pest management strategies for this pest. Another project, working with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at NC State, compares socio-environmental risks among several insect genetic modification techniques and questions how different stakeholder groups evaluate those risks.
Fallon Fowler | Ph.D. Student | Entomology | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Wes Watson
Fallon researches whether certain dung beetle groups (dwellers, tunnelers, or rollers) affect nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas production differently. She specifically seeks to answer which, if any, dung beetle traits and species are most beneficial to livestock producers and the environment. Ultimately, she plans on using this research to contribute to alternative, sustainable strategies in livestock systems, specifically in cattle production systems.
David Suchoff | Ph.D. Candidate | Horticultural Science | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Chris Gunter
David’s research focuses on developing screening methods for abiotic stress tolerance and avoidance in tomato rootstocks. Specifically, David is looking at morphological traits in rootstock root systems that may help improve soil resource use and acquisition. The end goal of this research is to help farmers improve their resource use efficiency via the use of these more resilient rootstocks. David also completed his M.S. degree under Dr. Chris Gunter and Dr. Jonathan Schultheis investigating nitrogen use efficiency in grafted watermelon and tomatoes. Prior to graduate school David was an apprentice on the Small Farm Unit at CEFS’ Field Research and Outreach Facility at Cherry Farm in Goldsboro.
David graduated in 2018. Visit his LinkedIn page here.
Kaitlyn Sutton | MBA Candidate | Business Administration | Jenkins Graduate School of Management | NC State
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Dunning
CEFS Supply Chain Resource Cooperative Scholar
Kaitlyn’s research is focused on analyzing the food supply chain on North Carolina university campuses. As a member of the UFOODS (University Food Systems) project team, she is working to increase the understanding and transparency of how food systems work on university campuses so that small and mid-size farms can benefit from increased engagement with North Carolina campus communities. Kaitlyn’s focus has been on cultivating new market opportunities for farmers by creating supply chain links from farms to university campuses in North Carolina. Ultimately, she hopes that her research will contribute to increased access to local foods for North Carolina students and the development of greater economic opportunities for small farms.