N.C. PSI Names New Platform Directors

Hannah Burrack in front of a corn field.

Hannah Burrack is the new Director of Education and Outreach for the North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative. Photo by Marc Hall

As walls go up on the new Plant Sciences Building, other aspects of the North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative (N.C. PSI) are settling into place as well. The N.C. PSI has identified four new platform directors and the interim director of operations.

The platform directors are Ross Sozzani, platform director for plant improvement; Chris Reberg-Horton, platform director for resilient agricultural systems; Hannah Burrack, director of education and outreach; and the director for the fourth platform of data-driven plant sciences. These directors will lead and guide the initiative’s research, Extension and education activities. As director of operations, Geoff Bock will oversee operations of the Plant Sciences Building including equipment and maintenance and be involved in space assignments.

These N.C. PSI leaders have officially joined the N.C. PSI leadership team, though they have been involved with the initiative for years.

“The platform directors, individually, will do a great job leading their platform terms of providing the vision, support and goal-setting,” said Steve Briggs, the launch director for N.C. PSI. “The synergy they have in terms of their vision for the Plant Sciences Initiative and just how well they work together is amazing. There’s no doubt in my mind that we selected the right people for these platforms. And Geoff Bock is the right person to pay attention to all of many details as the building is finished and starts to be occupied by researchers.”

Learn more about the new N.C. PSI leaders below.

Ross Sozzani: Platform Director for Plant Improvement

Ross Sozzani with plants
Ross Sozzani is the Platform Director for Plant Improvement.

Sozzani, an associate professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, came to NC State in 2013 as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in Synthetic and Systems Biology. She is internationally known for her research on plant root growth for improved agronomic traits, 3D plant bioprinting and bringing together international interdisciplinary researchers. She is involved with two of the first four interdisciplinary plant sciences research projects funded by the university, called GRIP4PSI projects.

Chris Reberg-Horton: Platform Director for Resilient Agricultural Systems

Chris Reberg-Horton in front of trees.
Chris Reberg-Horton is the Platform Director for Resilient Agricultural Systems.

Reberg-Horton, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, returned to NC State in 2006. He is well-known for leading a nationwide research network, called Precision Sustainable Agriculture, focused on using low-cost, cutting-edge technology and machine learning to enhance sustainable agricultural practices. Last fall he received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in support of this research. He was involved in shaping N.C. PSI as part of the Food Systems, Environmental Sustainability and Resilience Platform Sub Task Force. He is also the director of research at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Hannah Burrack: Director of Education and Outreach

Hannah Burrack in front of field.
Hannah Burrack is the Director of Education and Outreach.

Burrack, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, came to NC State in 2007. She is well-known for her research and Extension work focused on managing the insects that plague tobacco, berries and other specialty crop growers. She also teaches a course on writing grant and fellowship applications for graduate students. She was highly involved in shaping N.C. PSI as a chair for the Plant Improvement Platform Sub Task Force and as a member of the Research and Technology Task Force.

Geoff Bock: Interim Director of Operations

Geoff Bock in front of neutral background.
Geoff Bock is the Interim Director of Operations.

Bock was the first employee for the N.C. PSI, hired in 2016 as the project manager. He has a Master’s of Microbial Biotechnology and MBA from NC State. He is known for his attention to detail and strong work ethic. He is intimately familiar with the Plant Sciences Building, having been involved with construction and architectural meetings for years. He was also highly involved in organizing the N.C. PSI Task Forces and the Task Force Proceedings.

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