UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Zachary Dashner, a doctoral student in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been invited to take part in the U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security in June at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The program is for graduate students who are interested in developing a holistic understanding of the conceptual challenges around global food security. This introduction to global food security provides students with a working knowledge of these issues, with a focus on cross-disciplinary problem-solving of real-world development challenges.
Erin Connolly, professor and head of Penn State's Department of Plant Science, said Dashner, who is seeking a doctorate in horticulture, is a perfect candidate to participate in the Borlaug program.
"Being selected for the Borlaug Summer Institute is a prestigious honor, and Zach is most deserving," she said. "I am sure he will make the most of the opportunity and will apply the knowledge he gains as he endeavors to generate and disseminate new knowledge that will lead to improved food security and sustainable production systems."
Working in Connolly's lab, Dashner's research at Penn State focuses on solving food insecurity through plant science. He is exploring plant adaption to iron-deficient soils and investigating ways to increase bio-available iron content in the edible parts of plants.
"In the context of global food security, iron deficiency is the largest micronutrient deficiency in humans in the world, exacting both an economic and health cost," Dashner said.
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's ability to enter plants, which will help farmers in Peru, Venezuela and Columbia to meet newly enacted European Union standards for cadmium content.
"The Borlaug Summer Institute can help me to better understand the problems facing the food system and how to go about developing possible solutions through my continued research," Dashner said. "In addition to personal and academic development, this program will be a phenomenal opportunity for me to network with other like-minded graduate students as well as faculty, policymakers and practitioners, all working on issues related to global food security."