CAHNR Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members for Fall 2022

This diverse cohort will bring new expertise and fresh perspectives to CAHNR’s thriving academic community

Young Building

W.B. Young Building (Milton Levin/UConn Photo)

UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) has hired 16 new full-time faculty members. This diverse cohort will bring new expertise and fresh perspectives to CAHNR’s thriving academic community.

“We are thrilled to welcome new faculty across the College,” says Dean Indrajeet Chaubey. “With their extensive knowledge, commitment to outreach, and dedication to teaching, I know these new team members will strengthen the experience CAHNR provides to our students.”

Cathryn Chapman, Assistant Professor in Residence, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

Chapman recently completed her Ph.D. in plant biology at Rutgers University. Her work focuses on strengthening sustainable research in turfgrass science and larger issues affecting plant growth, especially in light of environmental challenges like climate change.

Chapman has authored 10 peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter. Chapman worked on seven field trials at the Rutgers University Horticulture Research Farm.

Jill Desimini, Associate Professor and Program Director, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

Desimini’s research focuses on climate, social systems, and the long-view as factors for design strategies for abandoned landscapes and devalued property. Desimini is the author of three books as well as numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Desimini holds a master’s degrees in landscape architecture and a master’s in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the UConn faculty, Desimini worked as an associate professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She also served as the director of the Harvard Climate Justice Design Fellowship.

Cynnamon Dobbs, Assistant Professor of Urban and Community Forestry, Natural Resources and the Environment

Dobbs is an ecologist and urban forester whose work specializes in socio-ecological systems. Her research focuses on how urban forests can contribute to human societies and attempts to identify urban issues that can be addressed through natural solutions.

Dobbs holds a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Melbourne. Before coming to UConn, Dobbs worked as an associate professor of urban forestry and ecology at the Universidad Mayor, and an associate professor of green infrastructure at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Jason Scott Entsminger, Visiting Assistant Extension Professor, Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, Agricultural and Resource Economics

Entsminger’s research focuses on understanding how collective processes identify and capture economic value. Entsminger holds a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

Before coming to UConn, Entsminger served as the associate director for the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development and assistant research professor at Penn State University.

Zbigniew Grabowski, Associate Extension Educator in Water Quality, Extension & Natural Resources and the Environment

Grabowski is a socio-ecologist who holds a Ph.D. in environmental sciences and resources from Portland State University. Before coming to UConn, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Munich.

Grabowski’s research focuses on ecological restoration, infrastructure transitions, built environment quality, and food systems.

Clinton Mathias, Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences

Mathias is an immunologist with expertise in food allergy, asthma, mast cell biology, and mucosal immunity. His research focuses on uncovering the mechanisms through which mast cells mediate food and airway allergic responses and how they interact with other immune cells, with a particular interest in the role of diet and nutrition.

He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. Before coming to UConn, Mathias served as a professor of pharmacology at Western New England University.


Mary Beth Osborne, Assistant Professor in Residence, Kinesiology

Osborne is a licensed physical therapist with a specialization in neurologic physical therapy. She earned her doctor of physical therapy from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

Osborne worked as a senior outpatient physical therapist and an instructor at Duke University Health Center before coming to UConn.


Daniele Piscitelli, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology

Piscitelli is a licensed physical therapist and researcher whose work focuses on neurophysiology, neurorehabilitation, and clinical neurology.

Piscitelli holds a Ph.D. from l’Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca. Before joining the UConn faculty, Piscitelli worked as an adjunct professor at the Pacific University School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training.


Shi Qiu, Assistant Research Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment

Qiu was previously a postdoctoral research associate in the UConn Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. Qiu holds a Ph.D. in information and communication engineering from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

Qiu’s research interests include remote sensing, cloud, land disturbance, time series analysis, and global change.


Mayra Ivelisse Rodríguez González, Assistant Extension Educator, Extension

Rodríguez is an urban social ecologist who holds a Ph.D. in forestry and natural resources from Purdue University. Rodríguez helps city agencies and organizations improve natural resource management and address environmental injustice in their communities.

Before coming to UConn, Rodríguez was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Gund Institute for Environment and the Spatial Analysis Laboratory at the Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

Anna Ramos, Lecturer, Allied Health Sciences

Ramos is a registered dietician. Ramos received her master’s degree in allied health science and bachelor’s degree in dietetics from UConn. Her master’s thesis focused on the short-term impact of a Mediterranean-style diet on premenopausal women’s bone markers.

Ramos previously held a position as an adjunct instructor at UConn and a clinical nutrition preceptor at St. Francis Hospital. She also worked as a registered dietician at Healing Springs Wellness Center in Cheshire, CT.

(Matt Barton/University of Kentucky Photo)

Wei (Vivian) Ren, Associate Professor of Climate Change Adaptation Science, Natural Resources and the Environment

Ren holds a Ph.D. from Auburn University, and previously served as associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Ren’s research focuses on scientific approaches to agricultural and environmental sustainability in light of global environmental changes.


Jackson Somers, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics

Somers recently completed his Ph.D. in economics at the University of California, San Diego. His research in environmental economics focuses on the history and environmental impact of the waste industry. Somers is interested in studying individual responses to environmental waste policies surrounding trash, recycling, and composting.

Bo Tao, Assistant Research Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment

Tao holds a Ph.D. from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources. His research focuses on quantifying land use and climate impacts on carbon cycling and water resources; incorporating remote sensing data and inventories for reconstructing land-use/land-cover change detection; remote-sensing and process-based ecosystem model development and application; and spatial analysis on ecological consequences of global environmental changes.

Before coming to UConn, Tao was a research scientist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Kentucky.

Pablo Kokay Valente, Assistant Professor, Allied Health Sciences

Valente recently completed his Ph.D. in behavioral and social health sciences from the Brown University School of Public Health. Valente’s research focuses on the relationship between socioeconomic status, stigma, and health disparities in accessing HIV prevention and treatment among vulnerable populations.

Before entering academia, Valente provided clinical care to people living with HIV in Brazil and studied health disparities among LGBTQ+ individuals in the U.S., Brazil, and East Africa.

Chaoyu Zhai, Assistant Professor, Animal Science

Zhai recently completed his Ph.D. at Colorado State University. His research focuses on applying omics approaches and machine learning algorithms to predict and explain meat quality factors like color, tenderness, and flavor. He is also interested in interactions between lipid peroxidation products and enzymes ruling meat color stability and tenderization on the molecular level.

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