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Summer 2018

Greetings and thanks for reading AgResearch Impacts. If we haven’t yet met, I’m Fred Tompkins, interim dean of UT AgResearch. As a former professor and department head in the UT Institute of Agriculture, I’m certainly no stranger to the valuable research, educational, and outreach efforts taking place here. In my first three months as interim dean, it has been a pleasure to reconnect with colleagues, as well as get to know new faculty and staff who are continuing our great mission.

I hope to use this newsletter to keep you informed of issues and activities important to UT AgResearch—things like the search for a new dean and the quest to establish the UTIA Genomics Center. Keep reading for more details on both of these projects.

I also hope to use this newsletter to acknowledge the talented people who work within UT AgResearch and to recognize at least a sampling of their many successes and contributions. The expertise and work of our scientists and staff is demonstratively improving lives in Tennessee and beyond.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope to meet many of you in person soon.

Fred Tompkins

AgResearch Field Days

Summer is a busy time, and field days are in full swing throughout the state. This year AgResearch and Education Centers will host thirteen field days and four special events. The full schedule can be viewed here. Of special note is the thirtieth anniversary of the Milan No-Till Crop Production Field Day that will be held July 26. This event is the nation's largest field day devoted to improving the production of no-till crops.

Search for New AgResearch Dean

A committee has been formed to assist in the search for the next AgResearch dean. The committee is co-chaired by Dean Caula Beyl, Herbert College of Agriculture, and Dean Robert Burns, UT Extension. The group consists of sixteen members representing various perspectives across the Institute of Agriculture as well as external perspectives. Nominations for the position are encouraged and may be sent to Ashlie Czyz at The job position is posted here.

Faculty Successes

AgResearch boasts two new Fulbright Scholars

Dr. Denita Hadziabdic Guerry and Dr. Seong-Hoon Cho received Fulbright Awards this spring. Guerry will travel to Ghana and investigate the viability of using an indigenous crop species, the frafra potato, as an alternate food source in West Africa. Cho will spend six months in South Korea designing the country's framework for forest carbon sequestration payments that optimize risk/reward trade-offs. He will also teach at Korea University.

AgResearch scientist leading new biofuel/bioenergy research efforts

Dr. David Harper secured a $1.4 million US Department of Energy grant to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of biomass. A stated goal of the project is to help lower the cost of biobased fuel production.

Search Underway for Director of New Genomics Center

UTIA is embarking on a multimillion-dollar investment to establish the UTIA Genomics Center for the Advancement of Agriculture and is seeking an accomplished associate/full professor to serve as the director of the Genomics Center. The director should have a personal interest in beef cattle genetics/genomics but will be expected to lead the Center to include all faculty working with genomics in the advancement of agriculture. UTIA has identified genetics (study of single genes [heredity]) and genomics (study of the entirety of an organism’s genes and their functions) as high-priority areas in which to commit resources needed to create a nationally preeminent program that can provide leadership in the advancement of the beef industry. More information about the position can be found here and information about the Genomics Center can be found here.

UTIA Research Presence Expands in Belize

Faculty are developing the skills of undergraduate researchers while expanding their own research efforts in Belize through a USDA experiential learning grant. In this program, each faculty mentor works closely with their undergraduate Fellow to develop and implement a rigorous research study. At the conclusion of the project, students are required to submit one manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal and develop extension programming. Seven faculty participated in the second year of this three-year project, and some plan to continue research beyond the original funding period. More…


UTIA has joined a collaborative effort to raise the visibility of the value of federal investment in food and agricultural research. FedByScience is a collaboration between seventeen universities that have joined together to tell the impactful stories about agriculture and food research. The goal of this initiative is to secure additional funding for agriculture in the upcoming Farm Bill and increase USDA NIFA funding.


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