Faculty Notes

Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Josh Berning, associate professor; Brady Brewer, assistant professor; and Cesar Escalante, professor, advised competitive graduate case study and extension teams that placed at conferences this summer. Two teams took part in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association’s case study competition in Miami, and one team placed second. Students were given an agribusiness case study, then presented results given limited time. At the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) conference in Chicago, two University of Georgia teams competed, and one team placed third. These teams were given a case study, then two weeks to provide an answer to this real-world situation and to build a presentation. Escalante also served as advisor to Luis Pena-Levano (MS ­– Agricultural and Applied Economics, ’12) in the AAEA Graduate Student Competition. Pena-Levano was tasked with developing an extension program and presenting it to judges, and he placed second nationwide.

Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication

James C. Anderson II, assistant professor, is new to the department and is responsible for coordinating the department’s agricultural leadership program. He received his doctorate from the University of Missouri and has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois and Virginia Tech.

Abigail Borron, assistant professor, was awarded a University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach Fellowship that will enable her to work in partnership with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development on a project — “Leadership development and strong communities: A mixed methods approach to impact prediction and evaluation” — that will run through the fall semester.

Barry Croom, associate professor, joined the department as part of the agricultural education faculty on the University of Georgia Tifton campus. He comes to the department from Oregon State University, where he was a professor and head of the agricultural education department.

Milton Newberry III, assistant professor, has been named a 2017-2019 Lilly Teaching Fellow by the University of Georgia Center for Teaching and Learning.

Jason Peake, professor, accepted the position of agricultural education professor on the University of Georgia Athens campus. Peake previously held a similar position on the UGA Tifton campus.   

Ashley Yopp, assistant professor, joins the University of Georgia Tifton campus as part of the agricultural education faculty. She recently completed her doctorate in agricultural leadership, education and communication at Texas A&M University.    

Department of Animal and Dairy Science

Ronnie Silcox, former University of Georgia Cooperative Extension beef and sheep specialist, received the Friend of 4-H Award in recognition of his contributions and service to Georgia 4-H at the 75th Georgia 4-H State Congress. Silcox retired on June 1. He was a member of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science for 32 years.

Department of Crop and Soil Sciences

Miguel Cabrera, professor; Vicki McMaken, associate director of global programs for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Global Programs; and George Vellidis, professor, were awarded the Richard F. Reiff Internationalization Award from the UGA Office of International Education on April 4. Cabrera and Vellidis have worked to establish a dual-degree graduate program in sustainable agriculture with the University of Padova in northern Italy. This is the first program of its kind at CAES, and students who enroll in this program take courses and do research at both universities, ultimately earning degrees from both institutions.

Department of Entomology

Brian Forschler, professor, is the 2017 recipient of the Entomological Society of America National Recognition Award in Urban Entomology. This award recognizes and encourages outstanding extension, research and teaching contributions in urban entomology.

Marianne Shockley, academic professional, has been recognized as the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Outstanding Faculty Advisor.

Department of Food Science and Technology

Manjeet Chinnan, retired professor of food engineering, received the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) 2017 W.K. Kellogg International Food Security Award and Lectureship at the 2017 IFT meeting.

Mike Doyle, internationally recognized food microbiologist and former director of the Center for Food Safety, retired on June 30 after more than 25 years of service to the University of Georgia.

Mark Harrison, Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor and graduate coordinator of food science, was selected as the recipient of the 2017 Frozen Food Foundation Freezing Research Award from the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP). The award is in recognition of his many years of outstanding service to the public, IAFP and the food industry.

Rakesh Singh, department head and professor, is president-elect of Phi Tau Sigma, the food science and technology honor society. He will become president for year 2018-2019.

Department of Horticulture

Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, professor, received the 2017 Julian C. Miller Sr. Distinguished Research Award from the Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Science at the society’s annual meeting in Mobile, Alabama, in February 2017. The award recognizes an active member of the society who has had an outstanding research record in one or more horticultural crops and in one or more areas of horticultural research for 10 or more years.

Marc van Iersel, professor, and his lab members were awarded the American Society for Horticultural Science’s Outstanding Cross-commodity Paper Award. The award was given for the paper, titled “A Chlorophyll Fluorescence-based Biofeedback System to Control Photosynthetic Lighting in Controlled Environment Agriculture,” published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Department of Plant Pathology

Abolfazl (“Abi”) Hajihassani, assistant professor based on the University of Georgia Tifton campus, is focusing his research and Extension work on nematode biology and management in vegetable crops. His has a doctorate in soil science, with a focus on plant nematology, from the University of Manitoba and postdoctoral training from the University of Idaho.

Soraya Leal-Bertioli, senior research scientist, is based on the University of Georgia Athens campus, where she will be affiliated with the Center for Applied Genetic Technologies. Following doctoral research at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nottingham, she joined EMBRAPA – National Center for Research on Genetic Resources and Biotechnology in Brazil, where she most recently held the position of senior research scientist. Her work highlights the use of wild Arachis species in crop improvement, emphasizing disease and drought resistance and interface with breeding and genomics.

Jonathan Oliver, assistant professor based on the University of Georgia Tifton campus, is focusing his research and Extension activities on pathogen biology and disease management in fruit crops — including blueberries, blackberries and other emerging fruit crops — grown primarily in the southern part of the state. Oliver has a doctorate in plant microbe biology from Cornell University and conducted postdoctoral research at Auburn and Kansas State universities.

Ron Walcott, professor, was named associate dean of the University of Georgia Graduate School, following a competitive internal search. He will provide administrative oversight and strategic vision during the next phase of the Graduate School's evolution.

Li Yang, assistant professor based on the University of Georgia Athens campus, is focusing his research on the mechanisms by which model and nonmodel plants coordinate development and defense. He earned a doctorate in genetics from the University of Pennsylvania and completed postdoctoral training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Department of Poultry Science

Laura Ellestad, assistant professor, joined the University of Georgia poultry science faculty in September. Her research program is focused on understanding the molecular regulation of growth, metabolism and body composition in poultry to develop strategies to improve growth and metabolic efficiency in broiler chickens. With colleagues at the University of Maryland, she was recently awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to study how endocrine regulation during embryonic development affects growth and metabolism after hatching.

Gene Pesti retired in April and John Worley retired in June. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Poultry Science congratulates them on their retirements and thanks them for their many years of success and contributions to poultry science.

Ramesh Selvaraj, associate professor, joined the University of Georgia poultry science faculty in August. Previously at Ohio State University, Selvaraj is interested in developing orally delivered vaccines against foodborne pathogens and has filed a patent for a biodegradable, nanoparticle-based vaccine against salmonella. Recently, he was awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to study the role of regulatory T-cells in salmonella infections in chickens. His team was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Department of Defense to study the efficacy of ligand-directed cytotoxic toxins to kill prostate cancer cells.