Meet Jaden Tatum: Engineering a Path to a More Sustainable Future

Sep. 4, 2020
Jaden Tatum is a second-year graduate student in FABE

With an objective of improving the sustainability of agricultural systems on an international scale Jaden Tatum is on her way to finding a viable solution, one research initiative at a time. 

A current graduate student in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Jaden attended the University of Arkansas upon graduating from high school. As an undergraduate student, Jaden majored in agricultural and biological engineering with minors in sustainability and natural resource management; a degree path that has equipped her with the knowledge to approach issues, both practically and logically. 

“I decided to specialize in agricultural systems, realizing that agriculture touches everyone’s life, and there will be a growing need for more food, bioproducts and sustainable systems as the population continues to grow,” she said. “I am also interested in engineering for international development because there are huge gaps in yields, high levels of poverty and malnutrition, and a large proportion of the population works in agriculture in many developing countries.”

While completing her bachelor’s degree, Jaden got involved in research through connecting with one of the faculty members at the University of Arkansas. Her willingness to pursue her own interests led her to participate in research projects like her honor’s thesis, which focused on using a modeling software to simulatea sustainable irrigation management technique in Arkansas rice fields. Jaden emphasized the important role networking and communication can play in finding and establishing such experiences. 

“The biggest advice I have to other students is to explore the resources that you have open to you—read your email! I have found out about many of my grants, fellowship awards and undergraduate research programs through emails,” she said. 

Tatum, Shah, and the BSAL lab team in Wooster, OHNow just starting her second year at Ohio State, Jaden has accomplished a great deal in a short span of time. Jaden works alongside Dr. Ajay Shah in the BioSystems Analysis Lab, where she collaborates on projects dealing with biobased systems logistics and technologies.   

“My current research project is designing and testing a grain drying and storage system for use in developing countries,” Jaden explained. “We are hoping to create a system that is affordable and made with renewable resources.” 

For this project, Jaden has won two student grants from Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Sustainability Institute to support her research. The grant she received from OARDC is a part of their grant program, SEEDS: The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Research Competitive Grants Program. 

“OARDC’s SEEDS grant program aims to give students experience in grant writing and review, so a grant committee is partially responsible for rewarding funds to students in CFAES,” Jaden said. “Next year, I will get to take part in the same process!” 

In addition to her research funding, Jaden has also won four years of financial support through the university’s many funding initiatives; one of which is fellowships. At Ohio State, fellows are selected based on academic merit through university-wide competitions. Jaden was awarded a CFAES Environmental Graduate Fellowship, a University Fellowship, an Inclusive Excellence Fellowship, and as of recently a fellowship through a new program at Ohio State entitled EmPOWERment. 

A part of the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program, EmPOWERment was formed by 16 faculty members across seven colleges at Ohio State with the involvement of multiple centers and institutes, university offices and programs, and over a dozen external industry partners, led by ENGIE, Ohio State’s energy-management partner. 

Jaden TatumThe EmPOWERment program leverages Ohio State’s 50-year partnership with ENGIE to support energy research, operations and campus sustainability, by providing trainees with concrete opportunities to develop novel digital and physical components such as batteries, materials and algorithms; integrated assessment, optimization and predictive modeling capabilities for future scenarios; and new policies, educational mechanisms and business strategies.

“The focus of this program ties really well into my interests in international development and sustainable agriculture,” Jaden said. “I am excited to begin exploring what kind of affordable and sustainable energy sources are possible in rural contexts in developing countries.”

Jaden’s achievements in her first year of graduate school speak to her drive and passion for research, as explained by Dr. Shah. 

“Jaden is a very talented, hard-working and motivated student. Just in her first year as a graduate student, she has received multiple fellowships and awards, which testifies to this,” said Shah. “I feel very confident that she will achieve her goal. Jaden is a go-getter.”

 

by Kiersten Wright