When I received an admission acceptance letter to a prestigious agricultural college in Northern India many years ago, the second person (aside from me, of course) who was genuinely excited that I would potentially be doing “some good for the humankind,” was my father. At a family gathering a few days later, without rehearsal and to my utter embarrassment, he proudly announced, “In our family, we now say, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan,” (Hail the soldier, hail the farmer- the chant made popular in 1965 by the then prime minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri), since my older brother was in the Indian Air Force and I was about to join an agricultural college to pursue my higher education. Yes, my STEM journey continued from high school.
My father had big career plans for me. He wanted me to join the elite Indian Administrative Services (IAS) upon graduation. I didn’t think I had it in me. After completing my Bachelor’s degree, I came to the U.S. but pursued a Master’s in Social Sciences (Applied Sociology) and then a Ph.D. in Education Research and Methodology. However, my ever optimistic father kept saying (and hoping), “You can still do some good for the humankind with your knowledge, work, and most importantly, service.”
Sometimes, I think the universe talks to us. Sends us messages. Gives us hints. And it has a way to bring us back to the basics: a circle.
I may have left agriculture (academically) but it certainly hasn’t left me.
After putting in 100s of pre-award evaluation preparation hours for planning, developing, fine tuning, rehearsing, and presenting (multiple times) to the project leadership team, the research development folks, and finally to the National Science Foundation, a prestigious, $26 million Engineering Research Center (ERC) award was just made to Texas Technological University (TTU) and their partner institutions, Case Western Reserve University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Georgia Tech, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The grant will be led by PI, Dr Gerri Botte at TTU.
The grant titled, “Center for Advancing Sustainable and Distributed Fertilizer Production,” (CASFER) will develop a transformative, engineered system that will take the US from nitrogen cycle pollution to a Nitrogen Circular Economy, allowing food production while mitigating environmental and socioeconomic problems.
To read more: www.casfer.us
Formal announcement is here: https://today.ttu.edu/posts/2022/08/Stories/Texas-Tech-NSF-Announce-Historic-Partnership-for-Fertilizer-Production
NSF’s official award notice is here: https://beta.nsf.gov/news/nsf-announces-4-new-engineering-research-centers-focused-agriculture-health-manufacturing-and?sf169126168=1
We are really proud to be the external evaluators on the grant. We had a lot of support from the exceptionally talented research development staff at TTU who understood evaluation and how it works! Over the course of the grant, in addition to assessing CASFER’s fidelity of implementation and efficacy, our team will be looking into studying and understanding aspects of Engineering Workforce Development (EWD), Diversity & Culture of Inclusion, Innovation, and Partnerships within CASFER and beyond.
So much more to come. Stay tuned!