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Clarkson University Professor's Research on Math & Sustainable Agriculture Heading to Capitol Hill

Clarkson University Professor of Mathematics Kathleen Kavanagh has been selected to represent the American Mathematical Society by presenting her research on modeling and optimization for sustainable agriculture at the annual Coalition for National Science Funding's exhibition and reception on Capitol Hill in May.

Kathleen KavanaghAs a mathematician, Kavanagh has studied real-world environmental issues for years and works with environmental engineers to use math to better understand the impacts of humans on the environment.

The inspiration for this project goes back to a conversation she had in 2011 at a workshop at the American Institute of Mathemetics in California that resulted in her collaborating with Driscoll's berries to study water use and sustainable farming practices

She teamed up with her former graduate school friend and colleague Clemson University Associate Professor of Mathematics Eleanor Jenkins and the duo brought in other researchers, students and industry partners. They make weekly conference calls and meet in person about once year as the research keeps evolving.

“This project has drawn a lot of attention from the start because everyone eats food and everyone eats food from California,” Kavanagh says. “I was so excited that it caught the eye of the American Mathematical Society and that we were invited to attend the science showcase on Capitol Hill. Looking at past events, there will be a lot of government representatives there. It's a great opportunity.”

Kavanagh is unable to attend the event, but is working on the poster presentation with Jenkins, who will be there.

In April, Kavanagh will travel to California for a face-to-face collaborative meeting about her project. She's looking for more stakeholders -- citizens as well as farmers and industry partners. After all, she notes, water scarcity affects everyone.

“I really love this research. Policies are changing every year and the project is dynamic. We try to keep on top of it,” she adds.

What's next? Kavanagh is going into her 13th year as a member of the faculty at Clarkson University. She enjoys teaching as well as research and is hoping to attract funding to hire a graduate student and keep the project moving forward.

For more information about her team's research on precision agriculture, go to

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

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