State-funded Dairy Innovation Hub hires multiple faculty members
Multiple faculty members were recently hired at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls with funding from the Dairy Innovation Hub. These new scientists will support work in the Hub’s four priority areas: stewarding land and water resources, enriching human health and nutrition, ensuring animal health and welfare, and growing farm business and communities.
The Dairy Innovation Hub, which the state of Wisconsin is supporting with $7.8 million per year, harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls campuses to keep Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner.
“By infusing faculty focused on the Hub priority areas into departments that match their discipline, we are addressing critical gaps and key research challenges in areas identified by the Hub,” says Hub faculty director Heather White. “Furthermore, these faculty are stimulating collaborations within their departments and colleges, and excitedly, across the three campuses.”
Eight new faculty members join five that were already in place from previous rounds of hiring. In addition, there are multiple faculty searches currently in progress. All Hub-funded faculty collaborate with each other and leverage the unique resources across UW–Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls.
The first Hub-funded faculty members, Ryan Pralle and Joseph Sanford, were hired in 2020. Kate Creutzinger, Grace Lewis and Luis Peña-Lévano were hired in 2021.
Margaret Kalcic, Department of Biological Systems Engineering
Kalcic is an associate professor in biological systems engineering with a focus on watershed modeling and agricultural hydrology. In this position, she’s developing a research and outreach program aimed at increasing agricultural conservation measures to protect water quality and the environment through agroecosystem simulation modeling and field monitoring. Her appointment began January 2022.
Kalcic will also teach and mentor graduate and undergraduate students in the areas of ecological engineering and watershed hydrology.
Kalcic earned her BS in bioengineering from Olin College and her MS and PhD in ecological sciences & engineering from Purdue University. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan before starting as an assistant professor at Ohio State University.
“I am excited to tackle these challenges in the diverse and beautiful landscapes of Wisconsin,” says Kalcic. “The precise location of my position is ideal. I am in the state capital where I can readily connect with key partners and policymakers, in a land grant university that values extension and impact across the state and region, in a department that supports engineering solutions in agricultural environments, and with strong connections to agriculture and state agencies provided by the Dairy Innovation Hub.”
Hilario Mantovani, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences
Mantovani is an assistant professor in animal and dairy sciences exploring the gut microbiome of dairy cattle. In this role, Mantovani is building a research program in rumen microbial physiology focused on advancing dairy sustainability through improved productivity, feed efficiency, and alternative feed sources. Mantovani will have the opportunity to leverage collaborations with the Department of Animal and Dairy Science, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the US Dairy Forage Research Center. His appointment began in March 2022.
Mantovani will also teach and mentor graduate and undergraduate students in the areas of rumen microbiology and ruminant nutrition.
A native of Brazil, Mantovani earned his BS in agronomy and MS in agricultural microbiology from Federal University of Viçosa. He stayed with the university as a lecturer before attending Cornell University, where he earned his PhD in microbiology. Mantovani returned to Viçosa as a professor and remained there until his appointment began at UW–Madison. He has over 20 years of experience in research, teaching, and investigating fundamental and applied questions related to the ecology, physiology, and genetics of rumen microbes and understanding their roles in rumen function, host phenotypes, and food safety.
“UW–Madison has a unique research-driven atmosphere and I truly enjoy being part of this community,” says Mantovani. “I hope to develop a research program that will make significant contributions to the field by bringing together a combination of basic and applied research. It is important to highlight that livestock gut microbiomes can be an excellent resource for a variety of industrial and biotechnological purposes.”
Chuck Nicholson, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Nicholson was hired as an associate professor in agricultural and applied economics with a focus on dairy economics. In this position, Nicholson is researching economic and agribusiness topics relevant to the U.S. and Wisconsin dairy supply chain, from farmers to consumers, including dairy markets and policy. His research program includes collaborations with colleagues at UW–River Falls, UW–Madison, and UW–Platteville. Nicholson started in January 2022.
Nicholson will also teach graduate and undergraduate courses related to dairy economics, dairy agribusiness, and food systems. Additionally, he will serve as a mentor for students leveraging his extensive experience with co-curricular activities.
Nicholson earned his BA in economics from the University of California, Davis and his MS in agricultural economics and PhD in agricultural, resource, and managerial economics from Cornell University. Before joining UW–Madison, Nicholson held research and teaching roles at three business schools: the Nijmegen School of Management (Netherlands), Cornell University and Penn State University. Nicholson has been a principal or co-principal investigator on a multitude of projects since 1996, exploring questions on dairy markets and policy, supply chain management, economic and environmental assessment of food systems, and food security.
“UW–Madison is one of the few universities that still has a critical mass in dairy-related research, and the Dairy Innovation Hub is strengthening that with additional faculty hires. The opportunity to contribute to this growing effort is the reason I came to UW,” says Nicholson. “My main goals are to apply the tools of economics, business and systems modeling to provide information relevant to decision making by dairy stakeholders in Wisconsin and at the national level.”
Joseph Pierre, Department of Nutritional Sciences
Pierre was hired as an assistant professor in nutritional sciences with a focus on dairy components and their impacts on human health and nutrition. In this role, Pierre’s research program will take a multidisciplinary approach to nutrition and health with an emphasis on the impacts of dairy products. He is already collaborating with colleagues across the Hub’s three campuses. Pierre’s appointment began in October 2021.
Pierre will also teach and mentor graduate and undergraduate students in the areas of nutritional health, consumption of dairy, metabolism, and intestinal microbiomes.
UW–Madison is familiar territory for Pierre. He earned his BS in biology and PhD in nutritional science from UW. Pierre worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology at the University of Chicago before becoming an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2017. Pierre’s research program seeks to understand the roles of diet, gut physiology, and the microbiome in health and disease.
“This position is an exciting opportunity to do translational research on dairy components and identify whether specific beneficial fractions of milk or types of dairy products can be used in personalized nutrition and medicine,” says Pierre. “I feel very fortunate to be on a campus that fosters collaboration, invests in research infrastructure, and is dedicated to innovation and discovery. The Hub is a perfect example of those three attributes in action.”
Xia Zhu-Barker, Department of Soil Science
Zhu-Barker was hired as an assistant professor in soil science with a focus on studying the sustainability of agroecosystems. In this position, she will develop a research and outreach program to improve the performance of agroecosystems by integrating biogeochemical, ecological, environmental, agronomic, economic, and social knowledge into agroecosystem management decisions. She will have the opportunity as a faculty member funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub to collaborate with colleagues at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls. Her appointment began in June 2022.
Zhu-Barker will also teach graduate and undergraduate courses related to biogeochemical processes and elements cycling in dairy-related agricultural ecosystems. Additionally, she will serve as a mentor for both graduate and undergraduate students.
Zhu-Barker grew up in a remote village in China and often worked on her family farm with her parents, where food shortages were common. This inspired her to explore solutions to this problem through soil science. Zhu-Barker earned her BS in agricultural resources and environmental chemistry from Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, China and her MS in agroecology and PhD in soil biogeochemsistry and nutrient cycling from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She then completed postdoctoral work at the University of California, Davis before becoming a lecturer and researcher at the same university.
Zhu-Barker’s research interests lie in understanding how biogeochemical and ecological processes impact the sustainability of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, water movement, resource use efficiency, food production, and pollutants in landscapes.
“I am thrilled to be working with the dairy industry and colleagues in the Hub to find solutions to real world problems,” says Zhu-Barker. “My ultimate goal is to improve the performance of agroecosystems and to help people protect our environment.”
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) is part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, both the flagship and land grant university of Wisconsin. CALS educational and research programs cover fields ranging from physical and life sciences to social science. More than 2,800 undergraduate and 900 graduate students make up CALS 16 academic departments, including 23 undergraduate majors and 47 graduate programs. Research is at the foundation of CALS activities, supported by the 12 agricultural research stations around the state and $95.8 million in funding awarded to CALS faculty and staff since 2021.
Zifan Wan, Dairy Food Science and Management
Wan was hired as an assistant professor specializing in dairy food science and management. In this role, Wan will develop a research and outreach program on dairy food product development with an emphasis on improving human health and economic sustainability of Wisconsin dairy farms and surrounding communities. As a faculty member funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub, she will collaborate with colleagues at UW–Platteville, UW–Madison, and UW–River Falls. Her appointment began in August 2021.
Wan will also teach undergraduate courses related to dairy food product development. Additionally, she will serve as a mentor and advisor for undergraduate students in the field of food science and dairy processing.
Wan earned her BS in food science from Purdue University and her PhD in food science and technology from Iowa State University. Before beginning her current appointment at UW–Platteville, Wan was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Food Science at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Wan’s research interests include dairy byproducts, waste utilization of dairy byproducts and new methods of food processing, such as high-pressure processing.
“I am thrilled to work on research, teaching and outreach that will enhance Wisconsin’s dairy industry. I think it is a unique position which allows collaborative and multidisciplinary work among the three campuses,” says Wan. “My plan is to develop a research group based at UW–Platteville focusing on non-thermal technology for utilization in food processing, especially dairy processing.”
Founded in 1866, UW-Platteville offers 41 majors in three colleges: The College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture; the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science; and the College of Liberal Arts and Education. UW-Platteville’s School of Agriculture has a 106-year history and features the 430-acre Pioneer Farm. Pioneer Farm’s mission is to provide on-farm experiences for students, to evaluate management practices, to conduct systems and applied research, and to communicate education and research. The school also features on-campus science laboratories, a greenhouse, and robust internship program.
AT UW–RIVER FALLS
Bahareh Hassanpour, Department of Plant and Earth Science
Hassanpour was hired as an assistant professor in plant and earth science with a focus on agricultural water management. In this position, Hassanpour will develop a research and outreach program on water management and protection specific to the dairy industry. As a faculty member funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub, she will also collaborate with colleagues at UW–River Falls, UW–Madison, and UW–Platteville. Her appointment began in March 2022.
Hassanpour will teach undergraduate classes related to hydrology and water quality, hydrogeology and non-point source pollution engineering. Additionally, she will serve as an advisor to undergraduate students in her areas of expertise.
Hassanpour grew up in Northern Iran, where water-related issues are common. From a young age, she became interested in gaining knowledge to solve these issues. Hassanpour earned her BS in agricultural engineering from Urmia University and her MS in irrigation and drainage from the University of Tehran. She then attended Cornell University where she earned a second MS and a PhD in environmental engineering. Before beginning her appointment at UW–River Falls, Hassanpour was a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University. Her research interests include remediation of non-point source pollution, water quality, nutrient cycling, and fate and transport of contaminants.
“I love my new position,” says Hassanpour. “It affords me a perfect opportunity to work on the topics that I am passionate about — to protect our waters while protecting our agriculture and agricultural production.”
Susanne Wiesner, Department of Plant and Earth Science
Wiesner was hired as an assistant professor in plant and earth science with a focus on agricultural atmospheric science and climate resiliency. In this role, Wiesner will develop a research and outreach program focused on mitigating impacts of climate change on the dairy industry. As a faculty member funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub, she will also collaborate with colleagues at UW–River Falls, UW–Madison, and UW–Platteville. Her appointment began in August 2022.
Wiesner will also teach undergraduate classes related to climate change and agriculture, atmospheric chemistry, climatology, and meteorology. Additionally, she will serve as an advisor to undergraduate students in her areas of expertise.
Weisner grew up and attended school in Germany. She earned her BS and MS in hydrology from the Technical University of Dresden. She then earned her PhD in biological sciences from the University of Alabama. Wiesner recently completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at UW–Madison with the Dairy Innovation Hub, where she studied the beneficial effects of improved cropping management in Wisconsin dairy systems. Her research interests revolve around natural climate solutions and sustainable agroecosystem management.
“I am incredibly excited to be part of such a great department at UW–River Falls,” says Wiesner. “I can’t wait to teach and work on research with UW–River Falls students and other faculty, and to get to know local farmers and the communities around River Falls. I’m thrilled that I can continue working on research that I started at UW–Madison.”
About UW–River Falls:
The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls enrolls 1,700 undergraduate students across 14 different majors. Two laboratory farms, a greenhouse complex, food processing plants, including a newly renovated dairy pilot plant, specialized laboratory facilities, intercollegiate competitive teams, and a very successful industry internship program, contribute to the College’s active learning environment which emphasizes hands-on experiences in real world settings. UW–River Falls is located on 226 acres 30 miles from downtown St. Paul, Minn., and is a leader in exemplary teaching, undergraduate research, and sustainability efforts.
Contact: Maria Woldt, Dairy Innovation Hub program manager, (608) 265-4009, firstname.lastname@example.orgThis article was posted in Uncategorized.