CFAES names its Distinguished Professors

Chieri Kubota, Jeff Firkins, and Lingying Zhao

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) has named Chieri Kubota, Jeff Firkins, and Lingying Zhao as its 2023–2024 Distinguished Professors of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The honorific title, selected annually on a competitive basis among members at the rank of full professor, recognizes excellent work and significant impact in teaching, research, outreach, and engagement. 

“We congratulate these outstanding faculty members, and all of the nominees, for their impactful contributions—to their fields, to their students, to our college, university, and the public,” said Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and CFAES dean. “They truly exemplify our purpose of ‘We Sustain Life.’”

Chieri Kubota

Kubota is a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science and director of Ohio State’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Center (CEARC). She has a sustained record of excellence in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) teaching, research, and outreach programs, as well as demonstrated significant impact on her students, CFAES, and the CEA industry.

Since joining Ohio State in 2017, Kubota’s efforts have resulted in The Ohio State University being widely recognized as a leader in CEA. She has published 15 peer reviewed journal papers, one review article in a journal, 10 technical papers/proceedings, 14 extension articles, and 11 book chapters since her appointment.

Kubota’s research publications are both significant and impactful. Research foci include plant propagation techniques, crop production management, and engineering applications. Google scholar citation analysis indicates that the number of her citations significantly increased over the past several years and has reached a high citation rate of nearly 1,000 per year. Kubota was named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2020.

She served as the faculty principal investigator for the design and construction of CFAES's new $36 million greenhouse research complex, known as the Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex (CEARC). Kubota also contributed to and created a new CFAES center, the Ohio Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (OHCEAC). This industry consortium has grown to 28 faculty/scientists and nine industry members and is the largest North American group including all relevant expertise of CEA. She also created a national CEA extension network with 131 members who work in various areas of CEA extension and applied research at land-grant universities.

Jeff Firkins

Jeff Firkins is a professor in the CFAES Department of Animal Sciences. He conducts dairy-production relevant research with a focus in three main areas: 1) determining how content of dairy cow diets effect gastrointestinal (GI) tract microbial populations and conversion of dietary nutrients into microbial protein (and thereby milk protein), as well as enteric dairy cow methane production, which is a major environmental concern; 2) interactions of physical, chemical, and GI microbiological processes related to fiber and starch degradation including rate of food passage through the GI system; and 3) quantitative prediction of protein/carbohydrate digestion and microbial protein production.

Firkins has served multiple terms as a journal editor, panelist, or manager of USDA competitive grants, and on planning committees for international conferences in GI microbiology and ruminant physiology. He has been principal investigator or co-PI on funded grant proposals totaling more than $4 million and has published about 150 peer-reviewed articles and made 200 invited presentations. His scholarly endeavors have been cited approximately 5,800 times.

He is the recognized CFAES leader for the Ohio State University Nutrition (OSUN) program, serving as its director for many years. The program focused on multi-disciplinary approaches for training PhD students, a multi-college initiative including faculty in the Colleges of Education and Human Ecology, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacology, and multiple CFAES academic units. He also teaches nutrition classes in animal sciences and OSUN nearly every semester.

Firkins’ contributions in research and Extension education are widely recognized on a national and international scale. His teaching and graduate student mentoring endeavors have been integral in training some of the leading dairy nutritionists worldwide.

Lingying Zhao

Lingying Zhao specializes in air quality and indoor environmental control of food animal production facilities. A professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, her work has significantly contributed to improved environmental quality and animal and human health; abatement of climate change, disease outbreaks, and heat stress losses in animal production; and the competitiveness and sustainability of the animal industry.

Zhao has excelled in disseminating information from her research and Extension programs, including 187 publications (62 peer-reviewed journal articles, two book chapters, 55 proceedings articles, 11 peer-reviewed Extension factsheets, 21 technical reports, six abstracts, and 30 editor-reviewed articles in popular press) and 114 scientific presentations. She delivered more than 46 invited presentations, another indication of recognition of her expertise by peers and stakeholders regionally, nationally, and globally.

Her specific areas of research and Extension interest are 1) measurement and modeling of air emissions from animal production facilities to assess their health and environmental impacts; 2) development of effective mitigation technology to reduce dust and nitrogen emissions and promote production of fertilizer and bioenergy; 3) innovative ventilation and indoor environmental quality control systems to abate heat stress, improve health, food safety, and energy efficiency; 4) green animal production systems with innovative environmental control system using renewable energy; and 5) educational research on the effectiveness of eLearning on controlled environment animal production.

Zhao was awarded an integrated USDA grant for development and dissemination of effective technologies to mitigate ammonia emissions from animal facilities. She developed a patented acid spray wet scrubber technology to remove ammonia emissions from animal production facilities and simultaneously produce nitrogen fertilizer. Zhao not only developed the technology, but also offered Extension workshops on commercial farms to demonstrate the technology. She recently completed another USDA grant project in 2022, where she developed two electrostatic precipitation air cleaning technologies for dust and pathogen control in poultry facilities. She has also branched out into improving household indoor air quality with Green Home Workshops.

Sherrie R. Whaley
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Tracy Kitchel