Faculty

A primary goal for SARA is to engage faculty in order to facilitate research in sustainable agriculture, while integrating this research with opportunities for student-engaged scholarship and experiential learning. These opportunities for engaged scholarship prepare UTRGV students for future jobs which help address the environmental, economic, and social challenges associated with meeting the need of food, fiber, and fuel for a growing world population.

Faculty associated with SARA include:

Dr. Parwinder Grewal — is Executive Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies, and New Program Development with research interest and expertise in nematology and entomology, as well as sustainable agriculture and resilience in food systems.

Dr. Alex Racelis — is an assistant professor of Agroecology and Resilient Food Systems at the UTRGV College of Sciences with research interest and expertise in agroecology, biological control of pests, sub-tropical agriculture, and soil health. More information about Dr. Racelis is available at the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences directory page.

Dr. Joanne Rampersad-Ammons — is associate professor of chemistry with research interest and expertise in biochemistry, molecular biochemistry, molecular diagnostics, aquaculture, apiculture, sustainable agriculture, microbiology, and Bacillus thuringiensis. More information about Dr. Rampersad-Ammons is available at the UTRGV Faculty Profiles page.

Dr. Yuanbing Mao — is an associate professor with joint appointments at Department of Chemistry and School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences, and has research interest and expertise in nanoscience and nanotechnology, including their applications in agriculture and food sciences and environmental remediation.  

Dr. Christopher Gabler — is assistant professor of plant ecology and sustainability in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences at UTRGV, with a joint appointment in the Department of Biology. His research interests and expertise include climate change, ecological restoration, invasive species, sustainable agriculture, and urban aquaponics. More information about Dr. Gabler is available at the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences directory page.

Dr. Engil Isadora Pujol Pereira — is an assistant professor of soil ecology in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences with research interest and expertise in soil management, microbial-mediated nutrient cycling, nutrient losses, and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Dr. Catherine Faver — is professor of social work in the College of Health Affairs at UTRGV with research interest and expertise in the social determinants and environmental impacts of dietary patterns.  

Dr. Margaret Graham — is a professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her research focuses on food and health of families living in the Rio Grande Valley. She also has conducted research on food consumption among small-scale farmers in the Peruvian Andes. More information about Dr. Graham is available at UTRGV Faculty Profiles page.

Dr. Teresa Patricia (Paty) Feria — is an associate professor with the Department of Biology, in the College of Sciences. Her research focus includes global-change ecology, conservation biology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and species distribution modeling. Her laboratory focus is understanding the present and future distribution of living organisms under various climate-change scenarios.  

Dr. Ben Xu — is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the UTRGV College of Engineering and Computer Science. His research interest and expertise are in thermal energy storage, multiphase heat transfer in energy-system and waste-water treatment. More information about Dr. Xu can be found in his Research Lab Website.

Dr. John Sargent — is a professor of entrepreneurship at the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship (VCOBE).  His research focuses on high-growth firms located on the U.S. – Mexican border.  Dr. Sargent serves as the lead faculty member on the Edinburg campus for the VCOBE entrepreneurship program. 

Dr. James Jihoon Kang — is an assistant professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences at UTRGV. He operates a Soil and Water Environmental Laboratory (SWEL) and has research interest in soil- and water-quality remediation using polymer, compost, biochar and other agro-industrial materials. His expertise includes soil chemistry, physics, and environmental geology. More information on Dr. Kang is available at the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences directory page.

Dr. Kathryn E. Perez — is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and works on land and freshwater snails. Her work includes taxonomy and development of molecular identification tools for snails that are agricultural pests.

Dr. Chu-Lin Cheng — is an assistant professor in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences and the Department of Civil Engineering.  His research interests and expertise are in groundwater hydrology, water and waste management, ecohydrology and soil hydrology, contaminant transport, environmental remediation, and numerical modeling.  He was a postdoctoral researcher in the Climate Change Science Institute, Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Tennessee. More information about Dr. Cheng is available at his Research Lab Website.

Dr. Jude A. Benavides — is an associate professor of hydrology and environmental sciences in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences at UTRGV. His research interests and expertise are in surface-water hydrology, local watershed impacts on coastal systems, flood hydrology and modeling, GIS applications in water resources in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and water-quality monitoring / watershed protection-plan development.  More about Dr. Benavides and some of his on-going projects can be found at Researchs Website and at the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences directory page.

Dr. Rupesh Kariyat — is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. He is an ecologist, with an entomology focus, interested in understanding the signaling mechanisms and ecological effects of species interactions, focusing on herbivores, pollinators, and their host plants. More information about Dr. Kariyat can be found at the Biology Faculty page and also at his Research Lab Website.

Dr. Julie Mustard — is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Her research group investigates behavior in the honey bee (Apis mellifera). For more information, please see her website at the Biology Faculty page.

Dr. Brad Christoffersen is an assistant professor within the Department of Biology with a focus on plant physiological ecology. His lab studies the ecology of plant traits associated with drought tolerance and avoidance, as well as the impacts of drought on ecosystem water cycling. More information on Dr. Christoffersen is available at at the Biology Faculty page.