Fellowships available for future ag scientists

NIFA provides $15 million for next generation of scientists, including undergraduates for the first time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of more than $15 million for fellowships to train and develop the next generation of scientists who will lead agriculture into the future by solving current and future challenges facing society. NIFA will support pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, and for the first time, undergraduate fellowships.

“As we look to the future and addressing challenges such as food and nutritional security, environmental sustainability, and health, we will need highly skilled scientists to address these concerns,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “Fellowships at this level are an excellent way to give tomorrow’s leaders the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to be successful and make a difference.”

NIFA funds the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The goal of the program is to support the intellectual talent needed to meet the challenges facing the nation’s agriculture, natural resource and food systems, which require innovative approaches in research, education, and extension.

Funded fellowships will span the six AFRI challenge areas (food security, water, climate change, food safety, childhood obesity prevention, and sustainable bioenergy) and the AFRI foundational program areas. The fellowship program also will fund projects that contain well-developed and highly-engaged mentoring and training activities. NIFA will fund single-function and multi-function research, education or extension projects.

This is the first year NIFA has offered funding to academic institutions to promote research and extension experiential learning for undergraduates. Undergraduate fellows will obtain hands-on experience and training and receive strong mentoring to assist them in joining the workforce or for pursuing graduate studies. Additionally, the undergraduate fellowships will provide opportunities for students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged groups at minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities to obtain hands-on experience and training at larger universities and USDA laboratories.

Pre- and post-doctoral fellowships serve as a conduit for new scientists and professionals to enter research, education and extension fields within the food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences. The aim of these fellowships is to cultivate future leaders who are able to address and solve emerging agricultural challenges of the 21st century.

Applications for the pre- and post-doctoral fellows are due on February 11, 2015. Letters of intent for the undergraduate fellowships are due on February 18, 2015, with full applications due May 6, 2015.

AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; bioenergy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  More information is at http://www.nifa.usda.gov/.

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