Seven CANR faculty members among honorees at 2024 MSU faculty investiture

Michigan State University formally recognized seven faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the 2024 MSU Investiture for Endowed Faculty.

Michigan State University formally recognized faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) as among the university's most outstanding researchers and educators at the 2024 MSU Investiture for Endowed Faculty on March 5, 2024. Out of the 36 total honorees, seven are faculty in CANR, with research programs ranging from biodegradable packaging to climate-smart precision agriculture. 

Together with this year’s honorees, CANR is home to eight MSU endowed/named chairs, four endowed/named MSU professors, several MSU Research Foundation and Red Cedar Distinguished Professors and three John A. Hannah Distinguished Professors. 

Endowed faculty positions provide scholars with ongoing financial support and recognize them as leaders in their fields and among MSU faculty. These positions are privately funded in perpetuity by donors, furthering faculty research programs by helping them to publish their findings, travel to conferences and create opportunities for promising students to gain research experience. 

Rafael Auras – School of Packaging
Bruno Basso – Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences
Patrick Edger  Department of Horticulture
M. Jahi Johnson-Chappell  Center for Regional Food Systems
Norbert Kaminski  Center for Research on Ingredient Safety
Alan Ker – Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics
Pamela Ruegg – College of Veterinary Medicine

Rafael Auras – School of Packaging

Rafael Auras is the Amcor Endowed Chair in Packaging Sustainability and a professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.   

Auras’ research agenda centers on reimagining sustainable packaging systems, developing life-cycle assessments, carbon-neutral packaging and new methods to biodegrade or compost packaging materials. He leads a research group of undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students in the Auras Lab, which develops novel biobased/biodegradable polymers and tailors polymer biodegradability. The lab also explores the social and behavioral barriers to commercial adoption of bio-based plastic packaging.  

A former Fulbright Scholar in the MSU School of Packaging, Rafael has conducted research on behalf of government-sponsored initiatives and Fortune 500 companies. His other research interests include mass and heat transfer in polymers, and food product/package compatibility and interaction. He has authored or co-authored over 200 publications, including four books, and is a frequent keynote speaker at prestigious conferences worldwide.   

Rafael earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the National University of Misiones in Argentina, an MS in Materials Science and Technology at the National University of San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a Ph.D. in packaging at Michigan State University.    

Bruno Basso – Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences
Bruno Basso is a John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor and MSU Research Foundation Professor in the colleges of Natural Science and Agriculture and Natural Resources.   

His research focuses on sustainability of agricultural systems, digital agriculture, and the dynamics of water, carbon and nutrients across agricultural landscapes. Basso is renowned for the integration of crop modeling with remote sensing to understand and predict variations of crop yield and environmental impacts. With a focus on row crop production, Basso uses advanced technology and predictive models to quantify the impact of current and future climate, soil, genetics and management.   

Basso serves as a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy. He received an MSU Innovation of the Year award in 2016. Basso currently leads a project funded by the USDA-NIFA on digital agriculture and implementation of climate-water-nutrient smart technologies and is also working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to develop a crop yield forecasting system for the country of Tanzania.   

Basso received his Laurea in agricultural sciences from the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, and his Ph.D. in crop and soil sciences from MSU. After earning his doctorate, Basso spent 12 years as a professor at the University of Basilicata, Italy, before returning to MSU in 2012.  

Patrick Edger  Department of Horticulture 

Patrick Edger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University.   

Edger’s research is focused on understanding how plant genomes are shaped by the environment. His lab leverages a diverse array of tools and a strong multidisciplinary approach to investigate gene family dynamics, the evolution of gene-gene interactions and genome duplications. His current research focuses on uncovering genetic mechanisms to guide breeding efforts for blueberry and strawberry producers.  

Edger served on a team of MSU researchers who recently created the first annotated Montmorency tart cherry genome, vital to Michigan’s tart cherry industry. Having the Montmorency tart cherry genome sequence will benefit the industry and consumers by growing more trees that can withstand varying spring weather and produce more cherries at a higher quality.  

Edger received his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 2012 and was a National Science Foundation National Plant Genome Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at UC-Berkeley and University of Arizona from 2012-2015. He joined the MSU faculty in Fall 2015. 

M. Jahi Johnson-Chappell Center for Regional Food Systems

M. Jahi Johnson-Chappell is the W.K. Kellogg Chair for Food, Society and Sustainability and a professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  

An advocate for food sovereignty, Johnson-Chappell's research focuses on participatory, socially just and ecologically sustainable agrifood systems that center the voices of farmers, laborers and the communities they serve. His work promotes community control over local agricultural systems through agroecology, a form of food production that boosts biodiversity, creates ecological resilience, improves soils, cools the planet and reduces energy and resource use.  

Johnson-Chappell is director of MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems, home to the newly established Great Lakes Midwest Regional Food Business Center (GLMRFBC). One of 12 such centers nationwide, the GLMRFBC will help farm and food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state and local resources.  

Jahi, the son of social workers and the grandson of Michigan farmers, earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. His prior work includes leading justice-focused global food nonprofits and positions as associate professor of agroecology at Coventry University in the United Kingdom and as assistant professor of environmental science and justice at Washington State University Vancouver.  

Norbert Kaminski Center for Research on Ingredient Safety 

Norbert Kaminski is the Food and Consumer Product Ingredient Safety Endowed Chair, director of the Institute for Integrative Toxicology and director of the Center for Research on Ingredient Safety at Michigan State University. He additionally serves as a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.   

Kaminski’s research focuses broadly on immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology, with emphasis around molecular mechanisms for hindrance of signal transduction cascades. A key part of Kaminski’s research has focused on the beneficial use of cannabinoids in reducing inflammation caused by viruses, including a recent project surrounding the use of a cannabis-based drug to fight lung inflammation connected with COVID-19.  

Collaborative work among Kaminski and a multidisciplinary team of researchers led to the award of a large grant to Michigan State University from the Superfund Research Program Center from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Kaminski leads a team of researchers and postdoctoral students in the Kaminski Lab, which has been funded for more than three decades by grants from the National Institute of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   

Prior to his time at Michigan State University, Kaminski served as an Assistant Professor at the Medical College of Virginia, after receiving his Ph.D. in toxicology and physiology from North Carolina State University.    

Alan Ker – Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics 

Alan Ker is the Elton R. Smith Endowed Chair and professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

Ker’s research has established him as an expert on modern issues related to agricultural economics, with projects spanning topics of climate change, agricultural innovation, public policy and the impacts of various diseases on the food and agricultural sectors.   

Utilizing a joint Ph.D. in economics and statistics, Ker has solidified professional interest and expertise in a variety of fields, with publications in leading academic journals across areas of agricultural economics, probability, statistics, law and animal and plant sciences. Ker has also organized various conferences on policy issues affecting the Canadian food and agricultural sectors. 

Prior to joining Michigan State University, Ker served as the Ontario Agricultural College’s Research Chair in Agricultural Risk and Policy, as well as the Managing Editor of the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics. He additionally served as president of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society. In 2021, he was named the Fellow of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society.   

Pamela Ruegg – College of Veterinary Medicine 

Pamela Ruegg is the David J. Ellis Chair in Antimicrobial Resistance and director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship and Dairy Health Management Laboratory at Michigan State University. 

Through extensive research and intensive outreach collaborations with dairy stakeholders in Michigan and across the nation, Ruegg aims to solve critical issues related to animal health and milk quality and bridge the gap between research and practical applications on dairy farms. 

Ruegg and her team of MSU faculty, staff, students and specialists work with dairy farmers and stakeholders to interpret and communicate research findings to help Michigan farmers maintain healthy cattle and use antimicrobials an economically and socially responsible way. 

Ruegg currently serves on a USDA-funded project that studies how the intestinal microbiome of dairy cattle affects antibiotic resistance, a problem plaguing farms across the country.  

Ruegg formerly served as the Chairperson of the MSU Department of Animal Science. Prior to joining MSU, Ruegg was professor and Extension milk quality specialist in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Ruegg also served as a past president of the National Mastitis Council. 


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