2019 Future Leaders
Benjamin Ndayambaje is a Ph.D. student and Graduate Research Assistant in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Benjamin strives to find data-driven solutions to the most vexing global challenges by applying human-centered design, strategic problem solving, and One Health principles. His current research interests focus on water, agriculture, climate change and environmental challenges. He earned a Master of Science in Global Health Delivery from the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda and attended leadership training at Yale University. In 2018, he presented his project results on pesticide use in a rice-growing community of Rwanda at the 5th One Health Congress in Canada, and at the 2019 Water for Food Global Conference in the U.S. In addition to his six years of university teaching experience, Benjamin served for over a year as a Senior Food Security and Livelihoods Program Officer at Partners In Health.
Chandler Levinson is a Ph.D. candidate and graduate research assistant in the Institution of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics at the University of Georgia. Driven by a passion to help feed people through crop improvement, her research focuses on using wild peanut relatives to increase the resilience of peanuts to economically devastating insect and disease pests. The long-term goals of her work are to contribute to decreasing pesticide use in the United States, increasing yield gains in Africa, and protecting Argentine peanut production from peanut smut. Before joining the University of Georgia, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2016 from Berry College in Rome, GA. There she worked as a research assistant in an American Chestnut breeding program. As an undergraduate, she volunteered with teaching adults English with the English as a Second Language program and spent one summer in Guanacaste, Costa Rica teaching English to elementary students.
Chandler Mulvaney is a recent graduate from the University of Georgia where he received a Masters of Agricultural and Environmental Education focusing on international agriculture, program development and evaluation. As a graduate student, Chandler won a proposal to partner with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). Through this partnership, he conducted his master’s research on the adoption of mineral fertilizers in Uganda throughout the fall of 2018. In 2016, Chandler received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Communication and Leadership from Auburn University. Upon receiving his degree, Chandler worked as a teacher, 4-H advisor and extension agent in Jerigu, Ghana as an AgriCorps Fellow. Living in Ghana allowed for relationships to develop with the USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project that enabled 26 farmers in his community to receive the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bag training. After completing his master’s degree in May, Chandler hopes to continue working with small-holder farmers throughout Africa to improve agricultural systems.
Dependra Bhatta, originally from Nepal, holds an M.S. degree in Entomology. Currently, he is pursuing a joint Ph.D. degree in agricultural economics and an M.S degree in Applied Statistics at Louisiana State University (LSU). As a career goal, he is interested in conducting research related to policy and implication in water management. His dissertation is focused on aquifer management under endogenous and exogenous risk. He believes that this work is of paramount importance because groundwater resource in many parts of the world is depleting at an alarming rate affecting global agriculture. Apart from his dissertation, he is also working on the water conservation technology management in Nepal and Uganda.
He is also involved in leadership activities and has served different on-campus organizations at LSU. He believes that his leadership experience and academic achievements will help him to be successful in the future.
Julianne Kellogg is a Crop Science PhD student at Washington State University seeking an interdisciplinary approach to her studies and research by incorporating Human Nutrition and International Development. Her research involves breeding small grain crops with enhanced nutrition following a soil to society (S2S) research pipeline. Within the S2S pipeline, Julianne works with farmers, agricultural scientists, and clinical nutritionists to help develop new varieties of quinoa high in micronutrients and quality protein. She also evaluates high beta-glucan food barley. Julianne conducts participatory plant breeding (PPB) research in the US and Ecuador. In PPB, farmers are involved throughout the breeding process with farmer involvement including, but not limited to, identifying breeding objectives, making initial crosses, managing research trials on their fields, conducting selection, evaluating varieties, and distributing seed. The goal of Julianne’s research is to develop nutritious crops that are adapted to a region, suited to a society, and adopted by farmers.
Kate Vaiknoras is a Ph.D. candidate in Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech. She conducts research in the field of international agricultural development with a focus on adoption of agricultural technologies in developing countries and their impacts on household well-being. Her projects have examined adoption and impact of Conservation Agriculture in Uganda, iron-biofortified beans in Rwanda, and drought-tolerant rice varieties in Nepal. She is particularly interested in the effectiveness of different technology dissemination strategies in promoting adoption, and on the impacts of agricultural technologies on household health and nutrition. Kate also has an M.S. degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Virginia Tech and a B.A. in Economics from Smith College.
Marlon Fernando Ac Pangán is a Ph.D. student in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. Before coming to graduate school, he received his B.S. degree in Food Technology at Zamorano University in Honduras, and a Master of Science degree in Rural Development at the University of San Carlos de Guatemala. After graduation he worked for six years in the coffee and cocoa industry in Central America. As part of his Ph.D., he works on optimization of single-origin cocoa beans processing, to enhance and develop the inherent flavor characteristics of cocoa beans from different origins across the world. During his Ph.D. program, he has been involved in different international activities. He was part of a team partnered with Abbott Nutrition to target malnutrition in India, and traveled in 2018 for marketplace research on infant nutrition in Chennai and Delhi. In May 2018, he traveled to East Africa to conduct a dietary assessment of rural Maasai people in Tanzania. In 2019, he was selected by the Ministry of Agriculture of Guatemala to represent the country at the International Cocoa Organization meeting in Ivory Coast. Complementary to his academic work, he also is a co-founder (along with his two brothers) of BEPS International, a consulting company focusing on rural development of low-income countries in Central America.
Millicent Yeboah-Awudzi is young entrepreneur and a food security activist with a small-scale food beverage industry for producing healthy hibiscus drink in Ghana. She had both her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Food Science and Technology from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Millicent is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Louisiana State University, where she’s working on hibiscus and dietary fiber metabolites and its effect on type 2 diabetes. Millicent is a 2018 delegate for the Chicago Council of Global Affairs: Global Food Security and a 2015 Borlaug LEAP fellow. Millicent’s research interest focuses on food product development and functional foods.
Kathryn Williamson is a PhD student and graduate research associate in Food Science and Technology (FST) at The Ohio State University. Kathryn’s research focus is developing novel applications of food waste to create a more resilient global food system. Her PhD work explores the use of spent coffee grounds to create epoxy resins, precursors to bioplastics, as well as apple and grape pomace as a source of prebiotics. She has an undergraduate degree in FST, during which she spent time studying Brazilian agriculture, economics, and food systems at Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo. During her Master’s research at OSU, she developed Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy methods to study coffee lipid chemistry and spent time in Guatemala working with smallholder coffee farmers. She has spent time in industry as a Research and Development Intern at the Nestle Development Center, Fremont, and Keurig Dr Pepper.
Esther Rugoli is a Junior majoring in Agricultural Biotechnology at Washington State University. Her interest lies in plant breeding, and her long-term goals are to make an impact on traditional farming in Rwanda so that the farmers will have a chance to have access to new varieties that are higher yielding to ensure food security. At WSU she has been exposed to outside classroom experiences. In the spring of 2019, she was awarded the A.Smick Scholarship, where she was able to use the scholarship funds to support and work with a cooperative of potato growers in Rwanda and helped them have access to improved seeds and improve their agricultural production and practices. She is currently working with a wheat breeder Dr. Kimberly Garland-Campbell, and Molecular Geneticist Dr. Camille Steber. Working with Dr. Garland-Campbell and Dr. Steber has been a great opportunity for her to learn more about science applications and disciplines.
A native to Nepal, Sulav Paudel is currently a dual-doctorate Ph.D. candidate in Entomology, and International Agriculture and Development (INTAD) at Pennsylvania State University. His ongoing Ph.D. research focuses on insect-plant interactions in the face of climate change. He has managed several donor-funded agriculture development projects in Nepal (e.g USAID PAHAL) and also collaborated on research and education programs (eg. IPM and Horticulture Innovation Lab) to develop sustainable and profitable farming methods for smallholder farmers. He also has experience of working and conducting the agriculture-based study in Bhutan, Bangladesh, Israel, Cambodia, Costa Rica and Russia. He was selected as one of the Next Generation Delegates from Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2018. He is dedicated to ending hunger transforming agriculture to a commercial enterprise rather than just a tool to feed a family.
Xinyi Tu is pursuing a Ph.D. within the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University, with a dual major in crop and soil science and environmental science and policy. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management with a minor in soil science, and an M.S. in Land and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Minnesota. She is currently working with Dr. Sieglinde Snapp on evaluating soil health indicators to assist farmers with decision making and in better managing their fields, balancing objectives for agronomic performance and for ecosystem services. The study sites include Michigan soybean fields and Malawi rainfed maize cropping system. Her research interests lie in using soil quality/health concepts and modeling tools as well as statistical analysis to understand human impacts on soil physical properties, soil ecological function and to solve critical environmental issues.