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UGA Engineering professor named Jefferson Science Fellow

K.C. Das, the Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia, has been named a 2019 – 2020 Jefferson Science Fellow. Das will spend a year in Washington, D.C., and in countries around the world, working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to engage American academic science and engineering expertise in U.S. foreign policy.

The program is administered by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Das is one of only 11 tenured professors from across the nation selected for this year’s class of Jefferson Science Fellows, an initiative of USAID and the U.S. Department of State.

“This is a tremendous honor, of course,” said Das. “For me, it’s a recognition that the government values the importance of bringing in science and academia to advise on policy. It’s very powerful.”

As a Jefferson Science Fellow, Das will work to develop a deep understanding of local food systems in developing countries and to design strategies to make these local food systems more sustainable while enhancing the nutritional security of the communities.

“I have always wanted to give back to the developing world, a world that I was born into and grew up in. Agricultural development is one means by which people can come out of dire economic circumstances.  USAID is the premier agency of international development in the world, and it is an honor to be a part of this work,” said Das.

Das joined the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1995. His research focuses on organic waste management, conversion of waste to value added products including biofuels, and on improving the sustainability of agricultural and food systems. He teaches courses in engineering unit operations, systems thinking and systems engineering, and entrepreneurship and technology transfer. He has conducted collaborative, applied research projects in India, Colombia, and Mexico. 

“I can’t think of a better choice for the Jefferson Science Fellows program than K.C.,” said Donald Leo, dean of the UGA College of Engineering. “Through his multidisciplinary research and innovative partnerships with scientists and communities around the world, he has been an outstanding ambassador for UGA and our college. It’s exciting to see him have the opportunity to serve our country in this way.”

Das earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Anna University in Chennai, India and earned his doctorate in food, agricultural, and biological engineering from the Ohio State University. He is a life member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).

Das believes the experience and insight he will bring back to the classroom and use to direct his research program at UGA will be the biggest benefit from his time as a Jefferson Science Fellow. 

“Last fall I taught a class on global food security in the 21st century.  Much of what I taught was based on literature reviews and a little bit of personal experience. After the year at USAID as a Jefferson Science Fellow, I will be in a position to inspire the next generation to seize this important opportunity to make the world a better place. I will bring back direct personal experience on how conflict or other natural stresses affect community food security, and what we as engineers can do to make these challenges manageable.”

Writer: Mike Wooten

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