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College of Agriculture welcomes seven new faculty members this fall

Tom Cully, assistant professor of practice dairy farm management, Animal Sciences (ANSC)

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Tom Cully joins the ANSC department this fall from the Maria Stein Animal Clinic in Ohio, where he worked predominantly as a dairy veterinarian. His chief area of research interests include dairy farm management and reproduction. When Cully is not outside enjoying the outdoors with his family, he can be found scouting the nearest ice-cream shops.

Morgan Furze, assistant professor of plant sciences and computational plant biology, Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) and Botany and Plant Pathology (BPP)

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Morgan Furze joins the FNR and BPP departments from UC Davis, where she worked as a USDA NIFA postdoctoral fellow. Combining tools from plant physiology and forest ecology with microCT imaging and machine learning technology, her research explores critical questions about carbohydrate storage and allocation in ecologically and economically important plants, especially trees. Outside of her career in science, Furze is a yoga teacher and certified group fitness instructor.

Celina Gomez, associate professor of controlled environmental agriculture, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

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Celina Gómez first came to Purdue in 2011 pursuing her Ph. D. in HLA. After spending the last few years at the University of Florida, Celina has returned to Purdue to continue her research and teaching programs in Controlled Environment Horticulture. Her research centers on indoor propagation of high-value crops using indoor farming technologies to acclimate hard-to-root young plants, urban gardening to support increasing consumer interest and lighting for indoor plant production.

Valerie Kilders, assistant professor of agribusiness marketing, Agricultural Economics

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Valerie Kilders joins Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University, where she completed her doctorate. Her research focuses on food marketing and agricultural economics, particularly looking at leverages of food marketing and experimental economics to better assist agricultural producers and stakeholders in the marketing system. Born and raised in Belgium, Germany, Kilders received her bachelor’s in agricultural economics from Humboldt University in Berlin and an Erasmus Mundus Master’s in agricultural economics and rural development through the University of Ghent and the University of Arkansas.

Kurt Ristroph, assistant professor of food and biomanufacturing engineering, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE)

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Kurt Ristroph joins the ABE department from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was a Schmidt Science Fellow and postdoctoral researcher. His research develops nanomaterials for medical and agricultural applications. Ristroph formulates biodegradable nanocarriers to precisely deliver bioactive molecules to targets in humans and plants, then evaluates their movement, safety and effectiveness. He also designs manufacturing processes for his nanocarrier formulations that can be implemented at the industrial scale. A native of Baton Rouge, he learned about sugar cane production on his family’s farm and is now excited to learn about Midwestern agriculture.

Yichao Rui, assistant professor of agroecology, Agronomy

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Yichao Rui joins Agronomy from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, where he served as the research director of the Farming Systems Trial, a 41-year-old field experiment comparing various agricultural systems. His research seeks to unravel mechanisms that underpin soil and crop resiliency to identify opportunities where agriculture can be implemented with ecological principles to improve its ecosystem services and long-term sustainability. Rui has lived, worked and run marathons on three continents. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching youth basketball.

Deandrae Smith, assistant professor of food security, Food Science

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Deandrae Smith joins Food Science from Tyson Foods in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she worked as a research scientist. Previously, Smith taught online courses through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on dairy product technology and cereal technology for the Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling, Shaanxi, People's Republic of China. Smith’s research drives innovation in the food industry by developing novel technologies, processes and products to address food security, safety, nutrition and sustainability concerns. A native of the Bahamas, Smith hails from one of 700 islands that compile the tropical country, only 30 of which are inhabited by residents.

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