Q&A with Dr. Darren Drewry

Sep. 8, 2019
Dr. Darren Drewry, Assistant Professor

Dr. Darren Drewry is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) and Horticulture and Crop Science. His academic background includes degrees in physics (B.S., Virginia Tech), computer science (M.C.S., University of Virginia) and engineering (Ph.D., Duke University). This diverse academic background has led him to seek multi-disciplinary solutions to problems at the intersection of ecohydrology, food security and agro-ecosystem monitoring and management. To address these problems and to help deepen our understanding of the terrestrial land surface, he combines sophisticated computer models, remote and in-situ sensing technologies, and intensive field data-collection campaigns. 

1. What is your research focus?

My research seeks to understand how terrestrial vegetation functions, and what the consequences of climate change will be for terrestrial ecosystems in the coming decades. As our understanding of terrestrial ecosystems deepens, we are better equipped to develop monitoring and prediction tools to address the range of challenges confronting agro-ecosystem production, conservation and management. Research projects in my group can take many forms, including work that is centered on detailed modeling and simulation activities to understand ecosystem responses to climate variability, or the integration of remote sensing and field-based sampling to advance the application of state-of-the-art sensors for ecosystem monitoring and prediction. 

2. What initially got you interested in pursuing this area of research?

I have always been drawn to environmental problems. Following my undergraduate degree, which was technically focused on physics and computer science, I decided to take a break from academics to join the Peace Corps, which I saw as an opportunity to intimately learn about a new culture while helping address environmental challenges at the community level. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa, I lived in a small Pulaar village named Loboudou, where I saw first-hand the impact of the environment and resource availability on people’s livelihoods. This experience motivated me to apply my technical skills to helping to solve the important environmental problems facing humanity.

3. What drew you to the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Ohio State? 

The FABE Department at Ohio State has an impressive breadth of expertise across many disciplines of agricultural and biological engineering. At FABE I knew I would continue to learn a tremendous amount about how agricultural systems work, while finding excellent collaborative opportunities with colleagues in the department. An important component of research in my group is to conduct field studies to understand how agricultural ecosystems work, and how best we can apply cutting edge technologies to understand, monitor and improve agricultural systems. FABE resources in Columbus and Wooster, and the outlying network of regional experimental stations across Ohio, offer tremendous opportunities for my research group to contribute to a range of efforts that span field experimentation, sensing and computational modeling and simulation. 

4. What are you most looking forward to in this position? 

A primary reason I chose to move to Ohio State University was for the breadth of excellent colleagues that exist here. I am excited by the potential for a diverse set of research collaborations with both university faculty and those in local and regional institutions. As a faculty member in an academic institution, a major part of my job is to mentor graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to do excellent research that will propel their careers forward. I would have to say that I am most excited by the challenge to develop a research group that provides motivated students great opportunities, while contributing to solutions to the challenges that face modern agriculture in the 21stcentury. 

5. What are your goals for the future/what do you hope to accomplish in this position?

My primary goal in the coming years is to pursue excellence in mentorship. As a professor, the success of my research program will be highly dependent on the productivity and quality of research produced by those I mentor. My mentors showed me that a true measure of success for a university professor is the success of their students and postdoctoral scholars. This knowledge will guide my interactions with students and postdoctoral scholars as I lead them through the initial stages of productive research careers.