Doctoral student in plant science recipient of inaugural FFAR Fellow Award

August 28, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Zachary Dashner, a doctoral student in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, was one of 17 recipients chosen by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, or FFAR, to receive the inaugural FFAR Fellow Award.

A nonprofit organization established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science that addresses today's food and agriculture challenges. Its Fellows Program pairs doctoral candidates with academic and industry mentors to equip students with the skills needed to facilitate their transition to the workforce.

As part of the program, graduate students from across the U.S. gathered at North Carolina State University for a weeklong training course designed to prepare them for successful careers in food and agricultural science. Dashner's industry sponsor is Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

Erin Connolly, professor and head of Penn State's Department of Plant Science, said Dashner, who is seeking a doctorate in horticulture, is an exceptional scholar whose work aims to solve food insecurity through plant science.

"Zach is deserving of this award and recognition," she said. "He is dedicated to the development of sustainable solutions to critical issues in agriculture, and I have no doubt his work will have a tremendous impact."

Working in Connolly's lab, Dashner is exploring plant adaption to iron-deficient soils and investigating ways to increase bioavailable iron content in the edible parts of plants. Through this research, he aspires to address the problem of iron deficiency, which is the largest micronutrient deficiency in humans in the world, affecting several billion people worldwide and exacting both an economic and health cost.

In addition, he is studying ways to reduce the amount of cadmium — a nonessential and toxic element — in cacao. His goal is to eliminate cadmium uptake by plants, which will help farmers in Peru, Venezuela and Columbia to meet newly enacted European Union standards for cadmium content.

"I am incredibly excited about the countless opportunities and potential for personal development over the next three years," Dashner said. "I believe that at the end of this program I will be ready to begin a career that will maximize my positive impact on the food system."

  • Zach Dashner

    Zachary Dashner, doctoral student in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

    IMAGE: Amy Duke

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 28, 2018