Confirmed Berry Conference Speakers

EMU Professor Steve CessnaSteve received his BA in chemistry and biochemistry in Colorado and then taught middle school math and science in Lesotho in southern Africa, with the Mennonite Central Committee, a relief and development organization of the Mennonite Churches. After returning to the US, getting married and moving to Indiana, Steve eventually finished a PhD degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His graduate research included genetically altering tobacco plants so that they express a gene from a bioluminescent jellyfish. Cellular calcium concentrations could then be easily measured in these ‘glow-in-the-dark’ plants. At EMU, Steve continued this research, involving EMU students in the study of plant stress, with applications in sustainable agriculture and invasive species ecology. Steve teaches biochemistry, chemistry, and botany courses.

Dr. Amy Howell of Rutgers UniversityDr. Howell is an associate research scientist at the Rutgers Marucci Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center where she works on isolating natural products from cranberries and blueberries that benefit health. Since 1993, Amy has been engaged in research aimed at identifying the active compounds that prevent urinary tract infections and determining their role in maintenance of urinary tract health. Amy currently receives funding from NIH/NCCAM to determine the bioactive urinary metabolites following cranberry ingestion and serves as a co-investigator on two clinical trials involving the use of cranberry for prevention of urinary tract infections. She is also funded through CSREES to identify antimicrobial compounds in blueberries and cranberries that contribute to host-resistance and human medicinal activity. Amy serves as a board member on the US Highbush Blueberry Council.
(Photo courtesy Rutgers University)

EMU Professor Tara KishbaughDr. Kishbaugh earned a BS in chemistry from Wheaton College and a PhD in organic chemistry from Dartmouth College where she studied the reactions of electron deficient indoles. While in graduate school, she taught Organic Chemistry for a year at St. Michael’s College, Winooski, Vermont. Before coming to EMU, she was a Dreyfus Teaching Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Massachusetts. During her post-doctoral position, she explored approaches to fluorinated allenes. She brings a background of significant research, publications and presentation with special concern for integrating faith and scientific study. Tara’s chemistry-related hobbies include photography, baking, and tie-dying. Tara’s research interests include chemical education, heterocyclic chemistry, and water quality studies.

EMU Professor Roman MillerDr. Roman J. Miller is the Daniel B. Suter Endowed Professor of Biology at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA where he teaches courses in physiology, developmental biology, biomedicine, and mentors students in research. Roman is also the director of the MA in biomedicine program at EMU. He received his Ph.D. in biomedical science from Kent State University, Kent, Ohio and completed a post-doctoral research program at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, prior to teaching at EMU. His research interests at EMU include the influence of phytoestrogens on the development of reproductive tissues in rodents, the role of an Anabaptist perspective in bioethics, and blueberry horticulture. His current research is focused on creating conditions for sustainable organic blueberry production. Effects of soil amendments on soil quality, plant vigor, and berry production are assessed in five highbush blueberry cultivars. Research has also been directed toward measures of berry quality such as antioxidant activity and anthocyanin content in various cultivars. Roman is the principal investigator of a USDA grant, which is the primary sponsor of this conference.

Virginia Tech Professor Douglas PfeifferDr. Pfeiffer’s position (40% teaching, 35% research, 25% extension) at Virginia Tech deals primarily with fruit integrated pest management and ecological interactions in orchards and vineyards. In recent years, his research has included mating disruption for lepidopteran pests and insect/plant interactions. Pfeiffer’s current research focus has centered strongly in vineyard pest management, especially grape root borer, Japanese beetle and sharpshooters that transmit Pierce’s disease. Another new research focus of Pfeiffer’s deals with insects feeding on raspberries and blackberries, especially Japanese beetle, green June beetle and stink bugs. He earned a BS from University of Massachusetts, an MS from North Carolina State University, and a PhD from Washington State University.
(Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech)

EMU Adjunct Instructor Kent SensenigKent was born in 1970 to Mennonite missionary parents in Saigon, Vietnam,but mostly grew up as a Mennonite Central Committee “kid” in Akron, PA. He is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite College (B.A. 1992) and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (M.A. 1998) and did doctoral studies in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of his areas of special interest is ecological ethics (or “Creation Care” and “Sabbath Economics”: God’s first “Great Commission” to humans to “tend and keep”/cultivate and conserve the good and gracious gift of land). Although he didn’t grow up on a farm, he stumbled into the “local food movement” after college via a friend’s family farm. Working as a “garden intern” on organic CSA vegetable farms has become a kind of perennial “summer job”: 12 seasons worth, in PA, WI, IA, and now VA, including three seasons running his own little CSA operation. Kent is also a “pastor’s husband,” supporting his wife’s ministry in several Mennonite congregations over the last 14 years.

Dr. Sciarappa is county agricultural agent with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Monmouth County, New Jersey. He is responsible for the field production and informational needs of agricultural clients in commercial vegetable crops, small fruit, and natural resources. As an associate professor, he teaches “Organic Farming and Gardening” in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences on Cook Campus. He is currently a member of the National Association of County Agents and National Chair of the Organic Horticulture Working Group of the American Society of Horticultural Science.

Dr. Straw is area specialist of Virginia Cooperative Extension, where he conducts applied research pertaining to vegetable, berry and specialty crops. Research trials include varietal evaluations, fertility evaluations, fungicide evaluations, insecticide evaluations, herbicide evaluations, plant growth regulator evaluations, seed treatment evaluations and cultural practices evaluations pertaining to the aforementioned crops. Research efforts include crops such as: strawberry, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry.