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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


OARDC Names 2009 Junior Faculty Research Award Winners: Land Use, Food-borne Illness Experts

April 23, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University’s Elena Irwin and Jeff LeJeune today (April 23) were named winners of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) 2009 Distinguished Junior Faculty Research Award.


Elena Irwin

An associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, Irwin is an internationally recognized innovator in theoretical and econometric analysis of spatial interactions influencing land-use patterns.

“Her research operates at the intersections of economics and geography and regional economics and environmental economics,” said OARDC Director Steve Slack. It focuses on land-use modeling, applied spatial econometrics, ecological-economic modeling and the role of amenities in regional growth.

Her 2002 Journal of Economic Geography paper was the first to point out how local interactions among neighboring plots of land can lead to differences in the spatial pattern of land use at a regional scale.

Her novel empirical strategies revealed evidence of negative interactions among recently developed residential subdivisions, providing an alternative to conventional economic explanations for urban sprawl.

Her 2007 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper examined changes in patterns of urban sprawl over time and found little empirical support for standard economic theories of land development.

She has received more than $4.1 million in research grants and contracts from agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the past year she has become co-principal investigator of the Baltimore Long-Term Ecological Research Program, one of 26 such programs sponsored by NSF, and has taken a lead role in developing the program’s $9 million renewal grant.

She has received $1.3 million from Ohio State’s Climate, Water, and Carbon Targeted Investment in Excellence initiative, working with an interdisciplinary team to study land use-water quality interactions in the Ohio River basin; has published more than 40 academic articles in leading journals, receiving 393 citations in the past eight years, including three papers with more than 50 citations; is committed to education, having advised 12 graduate students and mentored many others, particularly women; and has worked with The Women’s Place at Ohio State to serve as a role model for women scholars managing work-life issues.

Jeff LeJeune

LeJeune is an associate professor in the Food Animal Health Research Program (FAHRP), is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology and in the College of Public Health’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences, and is a national and international expert in the areas of pre-harvest food safety, animal-transmitted diseases, and food-borne illnesses.

His research “utilizes state-of-the-art molecular technologies to answer both basic and applied questions,” Slack said. “Truly multidisciplinary in his approach to research and outreach, he has collaborated with faculty from every department in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, from other Ohio State colleges, and from international institutions.”

He leads, for example, an OARDC and OSU Extension team focused on the emerging issue of microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables. Microbiologists, plant pathologists, agricultural economists, and horticulture and crop science specialists are the members. Together they make up the country’s largest and most comprehensive research and extension partnership addressing the issue.

Their work, Slack said, “is aimed at making produce safer for consumers in Ohio and the nation.”

LeJeune has been invited to serve on federal grant-review panels by agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Academies of Sciences; has been on international expert panels with the World Health Organization and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; serves on the editorial boards of two national journals, Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Journal of Food Protection; and is very involved with industry groups, consulting with the National Cattlemen’s Association and the National Pork Board, the country’s two largest food-animal commodity groups.

He has been the principal investigator on competitive grants totaling $5.2 million and co-investigator or collaborator on additional grants attracting $4.8 million; has authored or co-authored 34 peer-reviewed articles, 14 of them published in the past two years; and has advised eight graduate students.

The Junior Faculty Research Award — a plaque, $1,000 to each winner, and $3,000 to the operating account of each of their research programs — recognizes outstanding achievements by an OARDC faculty member at the rank of assistant professor or associate professor.

The announcement was made in a ceremony at OARDC’s 2009 Annual Research Conference in Columbus.

OARDC ( is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and is the largest university agbioscience research center in the nation.

Kurt Knebusch
Steve Slack