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Meet the Beltsville Distinguished Senior Research Scientists

Dr. Wade Crow is a Research Physical Scientist working in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Beltsville MD USA. His research utilizes remote sensing, hydrologic modeling and novel data analysis techniques to improve our collective ability to monitor and forecast water-resource availability – as well as understanding how this availability will evolve on a changing planet. This work has led to a long-term collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth Science Division – including service on the science teams for the NASA Hydrosphere States satellite mission, NASA Soil Moisture Active/Passive satellite mission, NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument, NASA Precipitation Measurement program, and the NASA Airborne Microwave Observatory of Sub-canopy and Sub-surface (AirMOSS) airborne mission. His research has impacted the way that both the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service operationally monitor agricultural drought, and he is currently leading an effort to improve the quality of soil moisture data information available to Californian grape and almond producers for irrigation scheduling. He was awarded the 2021 American Meteorological Society (AMS) Horton Lectureship Prize for outstanding research achievements and currently serves as Chief Editor for the AMS Journal of Hydrometeorology.

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Dr. Jitender Dubey is one of the most accomplished and senior scientists in ARS.  He earned his veterinary degree in 1960 and master’s in veterinary parasitology in 1963 from India. He earned a PhD in medical microbiology in 1966 from the University of Sheffield, England. Dr. Dubey received postdoctoral training from 1968 to 1973 with Dr. J.K. Frenkel, Department of Pathology and Oncology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas. From 1973 to 1978, he was an associate professor of veterinary parasitology, Department of Pathobiology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, and professor of veterinary parasitology, Department of Veterinary Science, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, from 1978 to 1982. He is presently a senior scientist in the Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory. Dr. Dubey has spent more than 60 years researching Toxoplasma and related cyst-forming coccidian parasites of humans and animals.

In 1985, he was chosen to be the first recipient of the Distinguished Veterinary Parasitologist Award by the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists. Dr. Dubey is the recipient of the 1995 WAAVP Pfizer Award for outstanding contributions to research in veterinary parasitology. He also received the 2005 Eminent Parasitologists Award by the American Society of Parasitologists. The Thomas/Institute for Scientific Information identified him as one of the world’s most cited authors in plant and animal sciences for the last decade. In 2010, Dr. Dubey was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, and inducted in the USDA-ARS Hall of Fame. In 2018, he was the first recipient of the William C. Campbell One-Health Award by the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists. In the same year, he received the honorary Doctor of Science degree from McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada. Recently, he was recognized as one of the topmost cited among 20,926 parasitologists worldwide.

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Dr. Naomi Fukagawa, MD, PhD, is Director of the USDA ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, MD, and Professor of Medicine Emerita at the University of Vermont (UVM), Burlington, VT. She is a board-certified pediatrician with expertise in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism, including protein and energy metabolism; oxidants and antioxidants; and the role of diet in aging and chronic diseases. She was President of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and the American Society for Nutrition and served as Vice-Chair of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee of the USDA/HHS. She served as an Associate Editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Editor-in-Chief of Nutrition Reviews. She received her MD degree from Northwestern University and her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her clinical training included residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, U Pennsylvania, Chief Residency at the UVM, and nutrition/ gerontology fellowships at the Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School (HMS). She was Assistant Professor at HMS and MIT, serving as Director of the Nutrition Support Service at the Boston Children’s Hospital. She was also Assistant Professor at the Rockefeller U and served as the Associate Director of the Clinical Research Centers at MIT, Rockefeller U and UVM. She continues research ranging from cells and animals to in vivo studies in human volunteers with a focus on whether and how diet can mitigate the adverse effects of environmental stressors while maintaining adequate food production in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.  

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Dr. Moon Kim is a Research Biophysicist in the Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory at Beltsville Agricultural Research center and the lab’s Research Leader. Prior to joining the USDA in 1999, he was a systems engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD for 10 years working to develop applications of laser-induced fluorescence imaging for the assessment of plant health, and to develop helicopter-based remote sensing platforms for research projects in forest ecosystems dynamics. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland while working for NASA. At the Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, he coordinates a multidisciplinary team of researchers, collaborating ARS laboratories, cooperating universities, and other government agencies. He is responsible for developing innovative sensing methodologies and technologies to mitigate food safety concerns for food production, with the goal of reducing food safety risks in food processing. He leads a research team in the development of novel instruments and sensing technologies, and transformation of these novel technologies into practical instrumentation for scientific and industrial implementations.


He is a recognized world leader sought for his expertise in the field and is responsible for his lab’s reputation as the world premier optical sensing research and technology site. He has authored/coauthored more than 500 scientific publications, including 290 peer reviewed journal articles, 12 U.S. patents, and 10 book chapters, and has received more than 100 invitations for presentations, consultations, and collaborations. Since 2009, he has served as the chair of the Sensing for Agriculture and Food Quality and Safety Conference, SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). Dr. Kim has received six Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) awards, including three National and two mid-Atlantic Technology Transfer awards (2009 hyperspectral imaging; 2014 and 2015 for automated poultry inspection; 2015 and 2016 for handheld fluorescence imaging technology) and, most recently, an Interagency Partnership for Technology Transfer award for collaboration with NASA Kennedy Space Center for development of a multimodal imaging system for controlled-environmental crop monitoring in 2023. He also received the 2022 Presidential Rank Award (Meritorious Senior Professional).

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Dr. William P. Kustas is a Research Hydrologist in the Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), US Department of Agriculture, Beltsville MD USA. Dr. Kustas is an international expert in the application of remote sensing technology for determining crop water use, or evapotranspiration (ET), and stress. His tools are being implemented operationally for improving water management and mitigating the impacts of climate change on agriculture. Dr. Kustas has led multidisciplinary remote sensing field experiments over different agricultural systems in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Iowa, Texas, and California.  His current research project - GRAPEX - primarily aims to refine and apply a multi-scale remote sensing toolkit for mapping crop water use and crop stress for improved irrigation scheduling and water management in vineyards in the Central Valley of California. This toolkit will be available to vineyard managers and ultimately other growers of perennial and annual crops for improving water management and irrigation scheduling.

Dr. Kustas was selected American Meteorological Society (AMS) Outstanding Achievement in Biometeorology (2011), and most recently the (AGU) American Geophysical Union Hydrologic Sciences Award (2019), which is the highest disciplinary recognition for a senior scientist within the Hydrology Section of AGU. The breadth and depth of his contributions to science are reflected in his election as Fellow of two diverse scientific organizations, AGU and AMS. In 2021, he was USDA-ARS Science Hall of Fame Inductee. Dr. Kustas is often invited to participate on scientific panels for NASA, scientific societies, and foreign institutions. These activities have a significant impact on research policy and shape the direction for a broad spectrum of activities within the sciences of agricultural hydrology and climatology.

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Dr. Hyun Lillehoj has been a senior Supergrade scientist (Immunologist) at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center since 2004 and works in the immunology and genomics fields in animal agriculture at USDA, Agricultural Research Service. Dr. Lillehoj received her Ph.D. in Immunology from Wayne State University, School of Medicine and she was a staff fellow in the Laboratory of Immunology, NIAID, NIH. She joined ARS in 1984. Her research has focused on the avian immune system and its response to intestinal infections, coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis. Her research has led to the development of safe and effective antibiotic-free approaches to control these two economically important poultry diseases. Among her most important accomplishments are the development and commercialization of novel diagnostic and therapeutic products for avian immunology, and several commercialized antibiotic alternatives. Her accomplishments have been recognized by the BARC Technology Transfer Award (1998), the ARS Technology Transfer Award (1999), the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Technology Transfer Award (1999), the Helen Cecil Leadership Award (2001), Pharmacia/Upjohn Animal Health Achievement Award (2001), Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Senior Scientist of the Year Award (2003), the ARS Outstanding Scientist of the Year Award (2004), Merck Achievement Award (2006), the Levine P.P Award (2006), the Pfizer Animal Health (Embrex) Fundamental Science Award (2007), Beltsville ARS Technology Transfer Award (2008), and Phibro Animal Health Award (2011). Dr. Lillehoj was inducted into the ARS Hall of Fame in September 2014 and was the recipient of 2015 Presidential Rank Award. In 2015, she was the first USDA employee who was selected and received the American Service Medal for Career Achievement Award (Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal) which is the highest award given to federal government workers. Dr. Lillehoj mentored the research of 160 junior scientists from 14 different countries.

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Dr. Joan Lunney is a Supervisory Research Scientist working in the Animal Parasitic Diseases Unit of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville MD USA. Dr. Lunney designed the U.S. PRRS (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) Host Genomics Consortium which assesses the role of genetics in determining pig resistance and susceptibility to PRRS virus infection, pathology, and associated growth effects. In collaboration with Canadian scientists, she has probed mechanisms controlling fetal resistance to congenital PRRS virus infection. She is an active member of the US NC229 multi-station research consortium which addresses stakeholder-driven needs to combat swine infectious diseases and identify scientific solutions to improve animal health.

Dr. Lunney co-leads U.S. Swine Immune Toolkit efforts aimed at developing new monoclonal antibodies and immune assays for assessment of pig health and vaccine responses and for use in biomedical models of human health and disease. She is actively involved in mentoring younger scientists, particularly women scientists. She was selected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998) and of the International Society for Animal Genetics (2017), received the ARS national Outreach Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Award (2014), and was inducted into the ARS Hall of Fame (2019). Most recently, Dr. Lunney was selected as a 2022 Presidential Rank Award Recipient as a Meritorious Senior Professional. Dr. Lunney has served on numerous grant panels, journal editorial boards and in leadership positions for animal genetic and veterinary immunology societies.

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Dr. Yaguang (Sunny) Luo is a Senior Research Food Technologist in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a leading authority on food safety and quality of fresh produce. Her groundbreaking research catalyzed critical improvements to food safety policies and practices in the United States and abroad. As highlighted by an FDA Senior Science Advisor, “Her research has had significant impact on fresh produce industry practices and enhanced the safety of our nation’s food supply”, and by the senior executive of the leading industry association (1,200 member companies), “Dr. Luo’s innovative produce safety research has undoubtedly saved lives and improved the safety of fresh produce.”

Dr. Luo’s scientific findings served as the basis for science- and risk-based food safety policies including “Guide to Minimize Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Produce” (FDA, 2018); “Code of Hygienic Practice for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables” (United Nations, 2010); and the U.S. Food Code (FDA, 2009). Dr. Luo’s research outcome and recommendations were adopted by the industry including revision of the industry standards and audit matrices: “Guidelines to Validate Control of Cross-Contamination during Washing of Fresh-Cut Leafy Vegetables” (United Fresh Produce Association or UFPA, 2017); “Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain” (UFPA, 2019); and the development and implementation of the first "Food Safety Best Practices for the Growing and Handling of Mexican Papaya” in both English and Spanish (UFPA and Texas International Produce Association, 2020). Dr. Luo’s research is cross-cutting and her pioneering research on food quality, safety, and nutrition of microgreens developed scientific literature about this emergent food product and supported the rapid and sustained growth of the microgreen sector.  

Dr. Luo joined the agency in 2001 after over five years of research and management experience in the food industry. She served on the Inter-Agency Food Safety Task Force of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and consulted for United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization. She led/co-led 24 externally funded research projects ($18 million) cross nine states and 15 institutions. Dr. Luo is an elected Fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT, 2018), and the recipient of the ARS Senior Scientist of the Year Award (NEA, 2015), Outstanding Researcher Award (American Society for Horticultural Science, 2020), and Achievements in Microbial Research for Food Safety Award (IFT, 2021). She currently serves on the National Space Council’s STEM Working Group and collaborates with NASA in researching growing microgreens in space.

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Dr. Autar Mattoo has been a Supergrade-level Research Plant Physiologist at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center since 2002 and works in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory. He has led multinational, multidisciplinary research programs focused on: Enhancing nutrition & shelf-life in edible crops, fundamental studies on photosynthesis, fruit biology, translational research & future sustainable agriculture in the US. Dr. Mattoo received a M.Sc. (1965) in Biochemistry and Ph.D. (1969) in Microbiology from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India and has experience in Genomics, Nutritional Metabolomics, Field-scale Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Plant Physiology. He has worked in multinational research teams and programs in USA, Israel, Italy, India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Poland, Serbia, and the Czech Republic, resulting in major scientific discoveries in plant photosynthesis, shelf life, plant heat and water stress targets, and metabolomic technologies. Dr. Mattoo’s accomplishments have been recognized in multiple awards and honors, including: Beltsville Area Senior Scientist of the Year (1998), ARS Distinguished Research Scientist of the Year (1998), USDA Secretary’s Honor Award for Personal and Professional Excellence (1999), USDA Secretary’s Award for People Making a Difference (1999), US Presidential Rank Award (2021). Dr. Mattoo has served on numerous editorial boards in the fields of plant physiology and plant biology, and he contributes to global science by his recognition as a fellow of the AAAS. He has mentored thirty-three M.S., eighteen Ph.D. students as a major/co-major advisor, and over seventy postdoctoral associates.

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Dr. Yakov Pachepsky is a Soil Scientist in the Environmental, Microbial, and Food Safety Laboratory at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. He has utilized his expertise as physicist to advance soil physics and hydrology and, more recently, integrate that work with environmental microbiology to address food safety issues. He has proposed and is currently developing a cutting-edge systems-based approach to assess and improve microbial quality of irrigation waters. The research aims to improve food safety by improving detection, monitoring, and management of irrigation waters using remote sensing technologies and artificial intelligence.

For 20 years, Dr. Pachepsky was affiliated with the USSR Academy of Sciences where he conducted and coordinated research programs on soil physics, mechanics, erosion, and land reclamation. Dr. Pachepsky joined ARS in 1999. He became an ARS staff scientist in 2001 and started research on fate and transport of manure-borne pathogenic and indicator microorganisms, and on hydrologic modelling. In 2019, he became a Supergrade scientist. Since joining ARS, Dr. Pachepsky has been invited to lead joint projects with USDA client agencies U.S. EPA and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and to participate in collaborative work with U.S. FDA, USDA-NRCS, and with international groups in Spain, UK, Germany, and Korea. He has presented 249 papers at professional meetings, received 138 invitations, and edited 15 books and special journal issues. He has published more than 370 peer-reviewed articles and has run workshops in 25 countries.

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Dr. Curtis Van Tassell is a Research Geneticist at the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory. He was raised on a dairy farm in Millbrook, NY. He earned a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University, an MS in Animal Breeding and Genetics from Iowa State University, and he returned to Cornell and received his PhD. He began his career in 1994 with the Agricultural Research service of USDA as a postdoctoral researcher in quantitative genetics. Dr. Van Tassell led a consortium that developed a high-density genotyping assay for use in cattle and led efforts to use this tool for prediction of genetic merit in livestock. Recently, he was part of a team that developed a genome assembly of the goat. The methods developed as part of this project demonstrate a dramatic improvement in assembly quality while substantially reducing costs. Dr. Van Tassell’s research program spans several areas: Development and implementation of genome enabled selection in cattle; Improvement of systems used in the national and international genetic evaluation of dairy cattle; Genetic improvement of goats around the globe; Development of bioinformatic tools to acquire, store, and analyze genomic data.  Dr. Van Tassell has been instrumental in communicating the importance of integrating, quantitative genetics and genomics research to the dairy and beef cattle industries and fostering their support for ongoing research.

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