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Office for Research and Graduate Education

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Meet the 2023-2024 Cohort

Ten researchers selected as part of the 2023-2024 STARS Program cohort

Scientist smiling in labThe CFAES Office for Research & Graduate Education is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 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.

2023-2024 Cohort 

Dr. Joshua Blakeslee HeadshotDr. Joshua Blakeslee
Associate Professor

Dr. Joshua Blakeslee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science and the Scientific Director of the Laboratory for the Analysis of Metabolites for Plants (LAMP) metabolomics facility. Research in the Blakeslee Laboratory is focused on integrating the techniques of metabolomics, plant biochemistry, and plant physiology to develop tools to dissect and metabolically engineer plant stress responses and secondary product synthesis. The laboratory is also the home of the LAMP metabolomics facility and has extensive experience in chromatographic separation/ quantification, capillary electrophoresis, mass spectrometry, protein expression/enzyme characterization, and metabolic engineering.

As part of USDA and NSF-funded programs, the Blakeslee laboratory has developed tools to metabolically fingerprint and manipulate phytohormone responses and lipid signaling cascades during stress responses and insect predation. Further work in this area funded by the Ohio Grape Industry Committee has focused on the development and field deployment of a novel system to capture and quantify auxinic herbicide drift particles in Ohio vineyards and correlate this drift with metabolic and phytohormone changes in damaged vines. On DOD and DOE funded projects, the laboratory has developed systems to metabolically engineer terpenoid synthesis in plants, as well as novel metabolomic tools to profile secondary terpenoid metabolites in a range of species. These efforts have resulted in two patents to date. Additionally, the Blakeslee laboratory has optimized and published capillary-electrophoresis and mass spectrometric tools to profile a range of biomolecules and their precursors, including terpenoids, phospholipids, sterols, phytohormones, sugars, phenolics, nucleic acids, and organic acids (short chain fatty acids), in plant, microbial, food, and industrial samples.

Dr. Cynthia Canan HeadshotDr. Cynthia Canan
assistant professor

Dr. Canan is an Assistant Professor and the State 4-H STEM Specialist in the Department of Extension at The Ohio State University. She earned her PhD in Biomedical Research with an emphasis in Immunology. Prior to joining the College in 2023, she worked as a lecturer in the College of Pharmacy and served as the Director of the Generation Rx Laboratory, a drug education research lab located within COSI (Center of Science and Industry), a science museum in downtown Columbus. As the current STEM Specialist, she provides overall leadership and framework for Ohio 4-H STEM education, as well as supports programming through the development of resources and connections between the university and communities. Her passion for public outreach and science communication has led her to her current research interest in the development and assessment of in-person and online informal STEM programs and their impact on participants and the local ecosystem. Her dream goal is to make evidence-based STEM education accessible to all youth, regardless of their background and circumstances, as STEM education can provide youth with the skills and knowledge that will help them to thrive and transform society with novel and sustainable solutions.

Dr. Sheila Jacobi HeadshotDr. Sheila Jacobi
Associate professor

Dr. Jacobi is an Associate Professor in swine nutritional physiology and gut health in the Department of Animal Sciences. Her research focuses on how early life nutrition affects gut development, intestinal barrier function, and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Her research in pigs uses the pig as an agrimedical model for maintenance and improvement of sustainable pork production and as model for human nutritional physiology and gut health. Dr. Jacobi teaches Nutritional Immunology of Animal Systems (ANIMSCI 5070), Swine Production (ANIMSCI 4300.01), Comparative Animal Nutrient Metabolism (ANIMSCI 5530), OSUN Research Seminar (ANIMSCI 8888), and invited lectures in Animal Growth and Development, Non-ruminant Nutrition among others. She recently has taken leadership of the Animal Sciences Undergraduate Research Program. In teaching and research her goal is to mentor students in fundamental biological research to develop critical thinking skills needed to become leaders in their fields.

Dr. Scott Kenney HeadshotDr. Scott Kenney
associate professor

Dr. Scott Kenney is an Associate Professor in the Center for Food Animal Health within the Department of Animal Sciences with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.  Dr. Kenney is a molecular virologist with a BSc in Animal Biosciences from The Pennsylvania State University and a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology from The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.  Dr. Kenney has been working on animal viruses and animal viruses with potential to transmit to humans (zoonotic) to understand their interactions with the host enabling efficient replication and cross-species transmission at the genetic level.  Dr. Kenney currently works with hepatitis E virus, porcine deltacoronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, African swine fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and others.  He utilizes a range of infection models from tissue culture through whole animal infection coupled with high throughput genetic sequencing and manipulation tools to understand the virus host interface.  These models allow for the development of therapeutics for treating sick hosts and to test and develop rationally designed vaccines to prevent disease.  Dr. Kenney has select agent clearance and ability to work with high containment pathogens in the Plant and Animal Agrosecurity (PAAR) biosafety level 3 facility on the Wooster Campus.

Dr. Matthias Klein HeadshotDr. Matthias Klein
Assistant professor

Dr. Klein is analyzing small molecule metabolites in biological systems, employing artificial neural networks and other machine learning approaches, with the goals of furthering the understanding of disease development and progression as well as the discovery of predictive disease biomarkers. Dr. Klein’s current research deals with the detection of pathogenic microbes as well as analyses on human maternal health and studies on mosquito metabolism regulation.

Dr. Subbu Kumarappa HeadshotDr. Subbu Kumarappa
associate professor

Dr. Subbu Kumarappan is an Associate Professor in Ohio State University - Agricultural Technical Institute (CFAES-Wooster). His research interests include production efficiencies in agriculture and horticulture, diversification of small farms, biobased renewable resources, and pedagogy research that help students learn better using technology and active learning strategies. He has a broad array of experience outside of teaching and research such as international work and teaching, serving as academic mentors to graduate students in NSF – I-Corps program, and creating and reviewing teaching materials and modules through technology, creative commons resources, and an active incorporation of industry focused classroom teaching. He has also served as a co-PI on various grants funded by NIFA, USDA studying (organic) agricultural production practices, input use efficiencies, and biomass based energy production. He has a PhD degree in Agricultural Business and Strategy from Michigan State University. He also has degrees in agricultural economics from Iowa State University in the US and Punjab Agricultural University as well as Annamalai University in India. He teaches courses in applied economics and business. More details are available at

Dr. Ali Nazmi HeadshotDr. Ali Nazmi
assistant professor

Dr. Nazmi holds the position of Assistant Professor of Nutritional Immunology at The Ohio State University, where he is a core faculty member of the Food For Health Discovery Themes. He obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees in Poultry Production and Poultry Breeding, respectively, from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. He earned his Ph.D. in Animal Biology from the University of California, Davis, and completed his postdoctoral training in mucosal immunology at Vanderbilt Medical University Center. Since he joined the faculty in August 2021, his research has primarily focused on host-pathogen interactions, host resistance to diseases, and immune responses related to enteric diseases in poultry. He is specifically investigating how intraepithelial lymphocytes maintain gut homeostasis and intestinal health during steady state and inflammation, with a focus on diseases such as Eimeria-induced coccidiosis, Clostridium perfringens-induced Necrotic enteritis, and Salmonellosis. Additionally, he is interested in exploring the use of feed additives as antibiotic alternatives to promote growth performance and modulate gut immune responses in poultry.

Dr. Jera Niewoehner-Green HeadshotDr. Jera Niewoehner-Green
Assistant professor

Jera Elizondo Niewoehner-Green is an Assistant Professor of Community Leadership in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education and Leadership. She holds a B.A. in Spanish, M.Ed. in Community Development Action from Vanderbilt University and Ph.D. in Agricultural Leadership from the University of Florida. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership theory and practice as well as cultural proficiency and coordinates the university-wide Leadership Studies Minor. Her research interests include the engagement of groups that may be excluded in leadership development and community change related to food systems issues and non-formal education. Specifically, she examines women’s participation in leadership roles and community groups as well as youth empowerment through social capital building and leadership development in out-of-school-time programs. 

Dr. W. Garrett Owen HeadshotDr. W. Garrett Owen
assistant professor

Dr. W. Garrett Owen earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Horticulture from North Carolina State University. In 2017, Garrett earned his Ph.D. in Horticulture from Purdue University. During his Ph.D. education, Garrett was a research technician for the Purdue floriculture research and Extension program. In 2017, Garrett joined the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University as the Greenhouse and Controlled-Environment Outreach Specialist for Southeastern Michigan and Metro-Detroit.

In 2020, Garrett joined the Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky as an Assistant Extension Professor of Greenhouse and Controlled-Environment Horticulture. In 2023, Garrett joined the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University as an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Greenhouse and Nursery Production Systems. His responsibilities are in floriculture and nursery crop production with an 50% Extension, 30% Research, and 20% Teaching appointment. His major program initiatives include floriculture crop production, plant nutrition and growth regulation, nutritional monitoring, crop diagnostics, and sustainability. He is also a leader and contributor of two national Extension initiatives – e-GRO (Electronic Grower Resources Online; and Fert, Dirt, and Squirt (Nutritional Monitoring of Greenhouse Crops;

Dr. Vinayak Shedekar HeadshotDr. Vinayak Shedekar
Assistant Professor

Dr. Vinayak Shedekar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He is currently assessing field- to watershed-scale impacts of implementing BMPs such as cover crops, denitrifying bioreactors, and drainage water management on hydrology and water quality. He is also co-leading a statewide Extension signature program focused on soil health ( The program provides soil health education to extension personnel, producers, and youth, and fosters interdisciplinary collaborations for soil health research. Prior to his current position, Vinayak worked as a Research Associate II at the OSU South Centers, Piketon Ohio. He participated in projects focused on water quality, irrigation management, and soil health and helped manage the field and lab research for the Soil, Water, Bioenergy program at South Centers.

View STARS Alumni