Back to top

Faculty and Staff Brief Bios

Let us introduce you to a UMass faculty or staff member whose work helps to support the mission of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. With these pieces, we aim to present a picture of the breadth of the education and research that happens every day at UMass Amherst. Enjoy getting to know some of our extraordinary colleagues.

Day job: Cranberry Pathologist. Off duty: Inspires Women and Farmers

Sai Sree Uppala focuses on cranberry pathology at the UMass Cranberry Station in Wareham. She is intrigued by the resilient and unique nature of cranberries compared to most other agricultural crops.

Lynn Beattie is Passionate About Community Nutrition and Better Health

Lynn Beattie works as a training manager for UMass Extension’s Nutrition Education Program (NEP). Her job is multi-faceted: she both develops and implements program materials, evaluations and training for NEP’s two programs, SNAP-Ed and EFNEP.

River Strong’s Energy Work and Lifelong Interests Intersect

River Strong says, “My work at the University of Massachusetts Clean Energy Extension (CEE) as an associate director, is deeply integrated into all aspects of my “off-campus” life. The work we do at CEE to advance the clean energy economy and help the Commonwealth meet its climate change goals is directly aligned with my values as a parent, educator, wilderness leader, community citizen, and human being.

Geunhwa Jung

The Grass is Always Greener

When you think of something ‘green,’ both money and turfgrass might come to mind.  In the case of Geunhwa Jung, you would be right on both counts, sort of. Professor Jung, a turfgrass specialist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, researches a fungal turf pathogen nicknamed dollar spot…

Tawny Simisky: She Knows What Bugs You...

Tawny Simisky is an Extension entomologist who specializes in insect pests of ornamental trees and shrubs with the UMass Extension Landscape, Nursery, and Urban Forestry Program.

Simisky provides diagnostic support to the UMass Plant Diagnostics Laboratory, as well as trainings for those working in in the commercial horticulture industry in Massachusetts. Her expertise includes basic entomology and Integrated Pest Management of tree and shrub insect pests for landscapers and arborists. She provides stakeholders with information for a wide variety of pest insects. These include, but are certainly not limited to, winter moth, gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, and piercing-sucking insect pests of plants.

Rick Harper Helps Us to See Both the Forest and the Trees

Rick Harper’s enthusiasm and passion for trees – and educating others about them – is contagious. Since August 2012, he has occupied a newly-created extension faculty position in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

As Extension Assistant Professor of Urban & Community Forestry, Harper’s position involves a three-way “split” of teaching, research and extension.  That means that at certain periods in the year he may be spending considerable time in the classroom instructing urban forestry/arboriculture students on the UMass campus, or that he may be traveling to Extension programs throughout Massachusetts - and North America – reaching adult audiences with lectures and hands-on activities about the management and stewardship of urban trees.

Tracy Allen Knows All the Dirt

It is a familiar sight. Every spring, your local farmers’ market offers information on soil testing through master gardener volunteers. Maybe you have sent in a soil sample for testing to the soil lab at UMass (officially the Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory), as thousands do each year.  You want to know if your garden needs amendments to grow those long-awaited juicy tomatoes. But who catches your soil sample on the other side of the mailbox?

Meet Tracy Allen.

Va Shon Wallace-Hiltpold, A Natural Teacher

Like falling off a log. Like stepping through a doorway. It is no surprise that work for Va Shon Wallace-Hiltpold, a 4-H extension educator, seems so effortless. Her vibrant personality seems to be the perfect match for a career that allows her to work with young people. With three teenagers of her own, her house is usually full of teens, “Which brings me so much joy and is a great reminder as to why I do the work I do.”

Marie-Françoise Hatte: We all live downstream

For Marie-Françoise Hatte, it is all about water. From helping with research projects and organizing events at UMass Amherst to coordinating statewide projects, water is what she does.

As the Associate Director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) sited at University of Massachusetts Amherst, Hatte assists Director Paula Rees in running the day-to-day operations at the Center. She enjoys the wide variety of water-related projects that come across her desk and her interactions on many levels.

Hang Xiao Wants to Help You Eat a Healthy Diet

Dr. Hang Xiao aims to help you eat a healthful diet and one that helps prevent disease. His research is focused on understanding the health-promoting effects of different food components. Xiao’s work is at the forefront of research into what are known as “functional foods”—foods that provide additional health benefits beyond basic nutrition. It turns out that knowing what your body needs to lower your risk to chronic diseases such as cancer is a lot more complicated than choosing cereal with a happy heart on the box.