Dr. Manjit K. Misra
Dr. Manjit K. Misra is the Director of the Seed Science Center, the founding Director of the Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP), the Endowed Chair of Seed Science, Technology and Systems and a Professor of Agricultural and Bio systems Engineering at Iowa State University. He also served as the Director of the Global Food Security Consortium at Iowa State University.
Appointed as the chair of the USDA National Genetic Resources Advisory Council (NGRAC) for two terms by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Misra has served on more than 60 local, national, and international Boards and committees. These include the steering committee for Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) International Conference on Biotechnology, the Scientific Advisory Council of the American Seed Research Foundation, the Board of Directors of the Iowa Seed Association, the Iowa Crop Improvement Association, and the “First the Seed Foundation.”
Misra earned a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering in India; and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is a researcher with 137 publications and an innovator with 10 patents. During his tenure as the Director of the Seed Science Center, the faculty and staff conducted seed program in 79 countries including 34 countries of Africa.
Misra has received a number of awards for his leadership including the “Distinguished Service Award” from the American Seed Trade Association, the “Order of the Knoll Faculty Award” from Iowa State University, the “Global Agricultural Leadership Award” from the Indian Council of Food and Agriculture, the Sukup Global Food Security award and the AE50 award (given to top 50 product innovations in the areas of agricultural, food, and biological systems) from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Association (ASABE) and the “Certificate of Appreciation” from the USDA Secretary of Agriculture for exemplary commitment and dedicated service to the USDA National Genetic Resources Advisory Council.
Dr. Mindy Brashears
Dr. Mindy Brashears is the former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety where she served as the highest-ranking food safety official in the United States at the USDA from 2019-2021. She currently is the Associate Vice President of Research at Texas Tech University. Brashears is a Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor in Food Safety and Public Health and holds the Roth and Letch family Endowed Chair of Food Safety at Texas Tech University. She also serves as the Director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at TTU. She is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors as her work has resulted in the commercialization of various pathogen mitigation strategies with 27 patents/patents pending. She holds a B.S. in Food Technology from Texas Tech University (magna cum laude) and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Food Science from Oklahoma State University.
Brashears is well-published and cited with an H-Index of 41. Her research focuses on mitigation strategies in pre-harvest production and post-harvest processing environments to improve food safety and public health. She also studies the emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance in food and animal systems. Her interests are primarily in meat, poultry and vegetable products. She also has a passion for food security and leads international research teams to South and Central America and the Caribbean to improve food safety and security in those sectors and to set up sustainable agriculture systems in developing areas. She teaches courses in food microbiology and food safety and offers industry training in HACCP, food sanitation, GMPs and food security.
Recently Brashears was named outstanding Graduate of Distinction by Oklahoma State University College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. She has received multiple awards including the IAFP Laboratorian Award, The AMSA Research and Industry/Extension Award and was named as a Future Icon in the Meat Industry by the National Provisioner Magazine. She serves on multiple national boards including the American Meat Science Association and International Livestock Congress Board of Directors. She will be the Chair of the Reciprocal Meat Conference in 2022 which will be held in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Dr. Tala Awada
Dr. Tala Awada is the Associate Dean and Director in the Agricultural Research Division (ARD), Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). In this role, Awada provides leadership and supports the strategic and operational mission of ARD, which is centered around innovation, discovery, and creative activity from ideation to realization, to ensure resilient and inclusive food systems and a healthy global future for all. In her role, she also oversees ARD’s global research mission, and supports team building and mentoring activities across IANR’s Academic Units and Centers, as well as the Research, Extension and Education Centers across Nebraska.
Awada also holds a Professor of Plant Ecophysiology position in the School of Natural Resources (SNR) at UNL, and co-leads with the Agricultural Research Service of USDA the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network site in Nebraska, one of 18 ARS-USDA sites in the nation. She served as the leader and co-chair of the LTAR network with its more than 400 scientists. She is a Fellow of the Robert B. Daugherty Global Water for Food Institute, and the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska. Awada serves on many committees including the NU Federal Relations Committee, the UNL Grand Challenges Steering Committee, the Nebraska Center for Energy Science Research Executive Council, the UNL Council on Inclusive Excellence and Diversity, and is the North Central Region Representative on the Diversity Catalyst Committee under the ESS/ESCOP unit of the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU). She is also the Nebraska Governor’s UNL appointee on the Nebraska Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force and serves on the Advisory Board of the Nebraska Audubon Society. She previously served as the Associate Director, Interim Director, and Graduate Chair in the School of Natural Resources, where she provided leadership and contributed to the research, education, extension, and engagement mission of SNR.
Her research is transdisciplinary in nature, she is widely published and funded, and collaborates with peers and stakeholders from across Nebraska and the world on topics related to climate variability and change; ecophysiology of invasive woody species; dendroecology; high throughput plant phenomics; soil health; greenhouse gas fluxes; and sustainability, productivity, and resilience of agricultural, grassland and forest ecosystems.
She has a PhD in Plant Sciences from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada; an MSc in Environmental and Renewable Resources from the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Greece; and a BSc in Agricultural Engineering from the Lebanese University, Lebanon.
Dr. Derek McLean
Dr. Derek McLean is an experienced scientist and leader in academic, industry and government settings. He has in-depth knowledge of the expectations and commitment necessary to be a successful dean and scholar in academia. He is currently a Senior Science Advisor in the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health. His role is to guide and confirm research funding aligns to the priority areas established by NIH. This effort requires expertise in building relationships, establishing groups to develop funding plans and policy, working across the more than 20 institutes and centers at NIH, and ensure research funding is invested wisely. In this role, he supports research that impacts the health and well-being of people and enhances efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
Prior to NIH, McLean was the Senior Director of Collaborative Research for Phibro Animal Health Corporation, leading a global research program to develop and demonstrate the value of products that improve animal health. Key aspects of this position included creating professional networks of scientists, establishing mutually beneficial partnerships with key opinion leaders, and investing in research and development activity at universities and contract research organizations. The international aspects of the position provided McLean with the opportunity to develop the flexibility necessary to adapt to unique environments and learn the complex challenges that face global agriculture production.
McLean was a faculty member in Animal Sciences at Washington State University for 10 years prior to joining Phibro Animal Health Corporation. In this position, he was able to fulfill the faculty role at a Land Grant University with responsibilities in research, teaching, and outreach. Highlights include mentoring graduate students that are now successful faculty members, extension agents, and scientists; teaching physiology at all levels including freshman and graduate students; and connecting with middle and high school students in outreach activities to encourage them to enter STEM fields. He directed a research program that focused on agriculture and biomedical applications and established collaborations with scientists throughout the world.
The consistent themes of McLean’s career are a strong interest in the research enterprise, providing opportunities and support for others to be successful, and fostering collaborations to accomplish goals and achieve success. He engages in outreach to increase scientific literacy and promotes investment in STEM fields. He has broad interests beyond his professional life, including travel, outdoor activities, and spending time with family. McLean volunteer as a community educator for the Alzheimer’s Association and several small non-profit organizations.