Photo of campus, setting sun shining behind the campanile.
Photo by Keegan Houser. 

On the Ground: Alumni in Academia

Photo by Douglas Sonders. 

Christopher Gardner

PhD '93 Nutrition
Rehnborg Farquhar Professor, Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University

For over 25 years, Christopher Gardner has led groundbreaking research on the health outcomes related to particular foods and diet patterns. His research considers the links between food systems, public health, and a range of social issues, including animal rights, labor, and climate change. Gardner directs the Clinical and Translational Core at the Stanford Diabetes Research Center, sits on several American Heart Association committees, and was on the consensus panel for the American Diabetes Association's 2019 Nutritional Guidelines, among other distinctions.

Photo courtesy of San Diego State University. 

Adela de la Torre

BS '76 Conservation of Natural Resources; PhD '82 Agricultural and Resources Economics
President, San Diego State University

Adela de la Torre has a long record of university leadership, including her current role as the first female president of San Diego State University. Previously, she was the vice chancellor for student affairs and campus diversity at UC Davis, where she was the first Latina to be designated a distinguished professor. She has also served as the director of the Center for Transnational Health and the chair of the Chicana/Chicano Studies Department at UC Davis, and as the director of the Mexican American Studies and Research Center at the University of Arizona.

Photo courtesy of Xing Wang Deng. 

Xing Wang Deng

PhD ’89 Molecular and Physiological Plant Biology
University Endowed Professor; Founder and Academic Chair, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University 

An expert on light-mediated plant development and epigenetics, Xing Wang Deng founded the Peking University Institute of Advanced Agricultural Sciences in Weifang, China. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Prior to his current appointment, Deng was a member of the faculty at Yale University for over two decades, and he has served as a co-director of China’s National Institute of Biological Sciences. He has published more than 300 papers in peer-reviewed publications, including the journals Cell, Nature, and Science.

Photo courtesy of James Kirchner. 

James Kirchner

PhD ’90 Energy and Resources Group
Professor of the Physics of Environmental Systems, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

For five years, James Kirchner directed the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape Research, and he now leads a research group at ETH Zurich that is studying mountain hydrology and geomorphology. Previously, he was the Goldman Distinguished Professor for the Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley and directed Berkeley’s Central Sierra Field Research Stations. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a Bagnold medalist of the European Geosciences Union.

Photo by Scott Barrie. 

Jill McCluskey

PhD ’98 Agricultural and Resource Economics
Regents Professor and Director, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University 

Jill McCluskey researches sustainable labeling, preferences for new technology, and product reputation and quality. She has served as the president of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. She is a fellow of the AAEA and the Western Agricultural Economics Association. For her work on how partner accommodation and work-life policies can affect the representation of women in STEMM disciplines, she won the WSU Samuel H. Smith Leadership Award.

Photo by John Stumbos. 

Pamela Ronald

PhD ’90 Molecular and Physiological Plant Biology
Distinguished Professor, Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center, and Director, Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, UC Davis; Key Scientist, Joint Bioenergy Institute

Pamela Ronald has received many accolades, including the 2008 USDA National Research Initiative Discovery Award and the 2012 Tech Award for the innovative use of technology to benefit humanity. In 2015, Scientific American named her one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology. Ronald co-authored the critically acclaimed book Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food. Her TED talk has been viewed nearly 1.8 million times. In 2019, she was presented with the American Society of Plant Biologists Leadership Award, given an honorary doctorate by the Swedish Agricultural University, and elected to the National Academy of Sciences. 

Photo by Jose Maria Sanchez Bustos. 

Joshua Schimel

PhD ’87 Soil Science
Professor and Chair, Environmental Studies Program; Associate Dean of Sciences, UC Santa Barbara 

Joshua Schimel’s research focuses on microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem processes related to soil carbon from the Arctic to California. Currently the co-editor-in-chief of the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry, he has published more than 180 scientific papers and the book Writing Science, a guide to academic publishing. He has chaired the National Science Foundation’s Arctic System Science Steering Committee as well as the foundation’s Office of Polar Programs Advisory Committee. Schimel is a fellow of the Ecological Society of America, an Aldo Leopold Leadership fellow, and a recipient of the Soil Ecology Society Career Achievement Award.

Photo courtesy of Zoe Reinhardt. 

Beth Rose Middleton

PhD ’08 Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Native American Studies, UC Davis

Beth Rose Middleton is a leading scholar on Native American land trusts. A member of the board of the Sogorea Te Land Trust, she has written two books and many articles about trust lands and tribal conservation. Middleton’s other research interests include rural environmental justice, indigenous analysis of climate change, intergenerational trauma and healing, and Afro-indigeneity.