When Shibu Jose was named the interim associate dean for research in the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) in late 2018, one of his first goals was to develop a CAFNR Research Council. The council would be made up of faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students, and would help share and spread CAFNR’s research focus and serve in an advisory role to the CAFNR Office of Research.
Jose accomplished his goal before the interim tag was removed, as he officially took the reins of the CAFNR Office of Research as the associate dean for research in late 2019. The CAFNR Research Council was formed in May 2019.
“CAFNR is home to so many incredibly talented researchers who are making a huge difference in a variety of ways,” Jose said. “With the council, my goal was to bring together a group who could share our research findings with numerous audiences, as well as advise our office on different matters. It’s been so beneficial to have them brainstorming unique ways to promote our projects.”
The current CAFNR Research Council is made up of 11 individuals and chaired by Sarah Low, associate professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences (DASS). Felix Fritschi, professor in the Division of Plant Sciences, is the co-chair.
“The purpose of the CAFNR Research Council is to provide advice and assistance to the CAFNR Office of Research and to make CAFNR faculty aware of research opportunities, as well as raise the profile of CAFNR research,” Low said. “Each our of six divisions have a representative, and we also have students, staff and Agricultural Experiment Station scientists as members.”
To foster an environment of research discussion, the CAFNR Research Council launched a “Coffee and Conversations” series that would feature special guest speakers. George P. Smith, Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences and 2018 Nobel Laureate, was the first guest to participate in the series. He was actually the only speaker to do an in-person presentation, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the council to move to a virtual format.
“We had to nimbly pivot when COVID-19 hit, as we had just launched our new series,” Low said. “While we hope to resume ‘Coffee and Conversations’ in the future, we launched a webinar series as an alternative.”
The webinars, which can be found on the CAFNR Research Council website, kicked off with discussions centered on the pandemic – its economic impacts, mental health tips, and the science and history around pandemics.
“After those presentations, we started featuring new faculty, and we’re moving to discussions on funding opportunities for this spring,” Low said. “We’re always open to webinar suggestions, so please reach out to your council representative with those ideas!”
Low said the group is hoping to host an in-person CAFNR Research Day in the fall, modeled after the School of Natural Resources (SNR) Research Day. This spring, the group will pilot a virtual CAFNR Research Day, which will feature student poster presentations, a Grants 101 course and more. The virtual CAFNR Research Day will launch on Reading Day, Friday, May 7, although material will stay online for viewing after finals.
“The purpose of CAFNR Research Day is to foster and celebrate research in agriculture, food and natural resources within CAFNR and in Missouri,” Low said. “I think it is vital that we showcase to our stakeholders how CAFNR research benefits Missouri and Missourians.”
Low added that being part of the council has opened the door for her to get a closer look at the unique research projects taking place across CAFNR.
“On a personal level, through the CAFNR Research Council I have really enjoyed meeting colleagues from across the college and in the natural science disciplines,” Low said. “I came to MU from a government agency with 400 social scientists, so this has been fun.”