Eleven researchers selected as part of the 2022-2023 STARS Program cohort
The CFAES Office for Research & Graduate Education is pleased to announce the 2022-2023 CFAES STARS Program (Strategic Alignment for Research Success) cohort. STARS is an initiative to identify and develop the next generation of research leaders among early and mid-career tenure track faculty within the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The goal of the STARS Program is to propel emerging research leaders – those individuals with the interest, vision, and motivation – to take their research programs to a higher and more collaborative level.
Dr. M. Soledad Benítez Ponce
Dr. Benítez Ponce is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at The Ohio State University (OSU). At OSU, Dr. Benítez Ponce is developing a research program on soil and plant-associated microbial communities, with an emphasis on agricultural production systems. A key component of her research is studying microorganisms at the community level, therefore evaluating multiple microbial taxa and their potential interactions. The Benítez Ponce laboratory focuses on measures of diversity, composition, and function of the microbial community, and their impact on plant health and yield. The laboratory applies high throughput molecular techniques and bioinformatic approaches to characterize the diversity and function of microbial communities in plants and the environment in which they grow. They combine this with field and greenhouse experimentation, on-farm surveys, and single isolate characterization; and integrate our results through multivariate data analyses. Currently, they are working on cropping systems of social and economic relevance to Ohio, in particular corn and soybean production and leafy green hydroponics.
Dr. Lisa R. Bielke
Dr. Bielke is an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University. After completing her Ph.D. studying poultry microbiology, health, and antibiotic alternatives at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Bielke joined a research program at a biotechnology company developing technologies for detection of foodborne pathogens and intervention strategies to reduce microbial load on fresh foods. In 2011, Dr. Bielke joined the University of Arkansas as a Research Assistant Professor at the Poultry Health Laboratory in the Department of Poultry Science studying vaccines and enteric health assays. In 2015, Lisa joined The Ohio State University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2020.
Dr. Bielke’s Poultry Enteric Health Research Laboratory (PEHRL) primarily focuses on enteric health, studying diseases, inflammation, vaccines, and pioneer colonizing bacteria with a goal of providing means to produce poultry in a sustainable manner that promotes health and well-being while increasing profitability. As a result of her research collaborations, advanced recombinant vaccine and adjuvant technologies for control of multiple poultry diseases are currently under international license for commercialization and have resulted in numerous US and international patents. Additionally, Dr. Bielke has played a major role in the development of enteric inflammation models to better understand the effects of antibiotic growth promoters, probiotics, and other feed additives on the health and performance of poultry. Lisa is also service oriented in her career and is a current member of the PSA Board of Directors, a member of the OSU College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, the College Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and the Animal Sciences Graduate Studies Committee Formerly, she has served as a section editor for Poultry Science, a member of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board president of the Southern Conference on Avian Diseases and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Poultry Science Association Foundation. She was awarded the Poultry Science Association Early Achievement Award and the Arkansas Biosciences Institute Early Investigator Award in 2014, the Hy-Line International Research Award in 2016, and the Novus Outstanding Scholar Award in 2018 and the 2021 Evonik for Achievement in Poultry Science. Lisa has served on 32 graduate and undergraduate advisory committees, 15 of which are students from her laboratory.
Dr. Benjamin M. Bohrer
Dr. Bohrer is an Assistant Professor of meat science and muscle biology in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University. He has been in this position since August 2020. From 2016 to 2020, Ben was an assistant professor at the University of Guelph in their Department of Food Science. Ben completed his graduate education majoring in animal sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (PhD in 2016) and The Ohio State University (MSc in 2013). The goal of Ben’s research at Ohio State is to address applied research questions related to animal production, while supporting the goals and initiatives of the animal products industry. To-date, Ben has authored or co-authored 66 peer-reviewed journal articles, 6 book chapters, and over 85 conference abstracts and short works. In addition to his research efforts, Ben teaches several courses at Ohio State including processed meats, advanced meat science, and animal systems physiology.
Dr. Jonathan M. Jacobs
Dr. Jacobs is an Assistant Professor of Emerging Infectious Disease Ecology in the Department of Plant Pathology and Infectious Diseases Institute Discovery Themes Initiative hire at The Ohio State University. He is a plant pathologist and evolutionary microbiologist interested in the mechanisms that drive pathogen emergence. His team is motivated by questions that describe the basis of bacterial colonization of plants and translating research tools to improve plant disease diagnostics and management. Dr. Jacobs was a Fulbright Scholar to Belgium and was previously awarded USDA NIFA and NSF Postdoctoral Fellowships. Since starting at Ohio State, his program has been recognized for both scholarship and teaching. He was a recent recipient of the American Phytopathological Society’s prestigious William Boright Hewitt and Maybelle Ellen Ball Hewitt Award, designed to recognize an early career researcher “who has made an outstanding and innovative contribution directed towards the control of plant disease”. He also received the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning Award to enhance student education through hypothesis-driven research. His program has been awarded grants from industry partners, national (NSF-NIFA Joint Plant Biotic Interaction Program; USDA SCRI; USDA FACT-CIN) and state (Ohio Department of Agriculture) funding sources and his trainees have received competitive fellowships (OSU University, FAES Environmental and Diversity, OSU Presidential [post- and predoctoral] and USDA-NIFA Pre- and Postdoctoral Fellowships) to carry out impactful agricultural research. The Emerging Infectious Disease Ecology team is a diverse, interdisciplinary group dedicated to advancing plant, microbial and agricultural science.
Dr. Alex Lindsey
Dr. Lindsey is an Associate Professor of Crop Ecophysiology in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University. Since joining the faculty in 2015, he has focused on how crops interact with environmental factors to influence growth and yield. He also teaches courses on crop production, plant physiology, and seed science and serves as coordinating advisor for the Agronomy specialization of the Sustainable Plant Systems major. Dr. Lindsey received his PhD in Agronomy from The Ohio State University in 2015 under Dr. Peter Thomison, and has been a Certified Crop Advisor since 2009. Prior to coming to Ohio, he received his BS and MS degrees from Michigan State University.
Dr. Megan Meuti
Dr. Meuti is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University. Dr. Meuti earned her PhD in Entomology from The Ohio State University in 2014. After teaching at Kenyon College as a visiting professor for one year, she joined the faculty in her home department. Dr. Meuti’s research focuses on seasonal responses in the Northern house mosquito. This species transmits West Nile virus to humans and animals throughout North America during the summer and fall, but enters a hibernation-like state in the winter where they divert their resources from reproduction and to survival. Dr. Meuti’s laboratory is characterizing how mosquitoes measure seasonal changes in day length and translate this information into hormonal and biochemical pathways. Additionally, her lab is characterizing when mosquitoes initiate and terminate their overwintering dormancy in the field and how human-mediated changes to the environment, like light pollution and higher temperatures associated with urban heat islands, impact mosquito seasonal responses and disease transmission. Dr Meuti's research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In addition to her research, Dr. Meuti teaches Natural Science General Education courses as well as advanced graduate classes on insect physiology and molecular biology. Dr. Meuti also translates her research to broad audiences and uses insect education outreach to increase scientific literacy and public engagement. She has won awards for both teaching and research mentorship and continually strives to conduct the highest quality research and support her students and collaborators to achieve their personal and career goals.
Dr. Dominic Petrella
Dr. Petrella is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute on the CFAES Wooster Campus. Dr. Petrella is the Program Coordinator for the Turfgrass Science Program, with a 70% teaching and 30% research appointment. The focus of the 2-year Associates of Applied Science Turfgrass Science Program is to provide hands on learning opportunities for students entering into turfgrass management careers, and Dominic is particularly interested in teaching these students more about data-driven management decisions that can save resources, time, and money. His primary research interests revolve around turfgrass response to environmental cues and stresses, with most attention paid to responses to light. Dominic is most interested in turfgrass perception and acclimation to alterations to spectral light quality due to foliar shade and using this information to select and breed for shade tolerant turfgrasses. Beyond shade, Dominic has been currently investigating the role of high-intensity light stress on cold tolerance and cold acclimation in a diverse range of turfgrass species and cultivars, funded by USDA and United States Golf Association grants.
Dr. Mitchell Roth
Dr. Roth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at The Ohio State University. Dr. Roth grew up on a farm in rural Michigan, but it wasn’t until a research experience in college that he became interested in biological research related to agriculture. Dr. Roth earned his BS at Grand Valley State University, then went on to earn his Ph.D. at Michigan State University studying Genetics and Plant Pathology. Broadly, he is interested in when, where, and how organisms interact. When it comes to plants and pathogens interacting, a myriad of factors affect the outcome of that interaction. Research in the Roth lab focuses on the genetic components that influence the outcome of plant-microbe interactions by using a combination of “-omics”, forward, and reverse genetic approaches. They investigate the role of pathogen genes in virulence, and the role of plant genes in resistance or susceptibility, and aim to use this knowledge to genetically engineer crops with durable resistance to pathogens.
Dr. Uttara Samarakoon
Dr. Samarakoon is an Associate Professor at The Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute on the CFAES Wooster Campus. She is also the coordinator of the Associate of Applied Degree program in Greenhouse and Nursery Management at OSU. Her research program focuses on developing sustainable crop production technology for ornamentals and hydroponic vegetables in controlled environment agriculture. Current research efforts focus on developing sustainable production techniques for hydroponic food crop production. via nutrient optimization, substrate selection and diversification of hydroponic crops. She organizes an annual workshop for K-12 teachers to provide training in greenhouse management and to integrate CEA education into the school curriculum.
Dr. Jonathon Van Gray
Dr. Van Gray is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute on the CFAES Wooster campus. He grew up spending far too much time enjoying riparian areas. His research focuses on the metagenomic dynamics of the stream microbiome under increasingly modified environmental conditions. Within this context, he has three general lines of inquiry: 1) How are human-induced landscape alterations within a watershed reflected in longitudinal patterns of microbial metagenome assembly? 2) What implications do compositional changes in the microbial community have on microbially-mediated ecosystem services and can this be exploited to predict overall ecosystem health? and 3) How can this information be leveraged to better manage and restore degraded aquatic resources? Current projects include assessing microbial response to freshwater salinization syndrome through a biogeographical lens, the characterization of wastewater effluent contributions to the antibiotic resistome of headwater stream communities, and how community coalescence at stream confluences is affected by upstream dispersal dynamics.
Dr. Ryan Winston
Dr. Winston is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering and Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering and a Core Faculty of the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State University. Ryan leads a research group focused on sustainable urban stormwater management which provides technical assistance to federal and state agencies, local governments, and watershed groups. His group conducts applied research, laboratory experiments, and computational modeling to understand the cost, benefits and ecosystem services provided by stormwater control measures including bioretention, wetlands, permeable pavements, etc. Ryan has led more than 50 projects focused on urban/suburban stormwater monitoring and subsequent development and/or calibration of models based on these data. Current research projects include construction site sediment and erosion control, climate change modeling, green stormwater infrastructure evaluation at the watershed scale, bioretention soil media development, mosquitoes in stormwater controls, and green stormwater infrastructure at marina facilities.