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Dr. Venu (Kal) Kalavacharla

Deputy Director

Prior to joining NIFA, he served as Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics and EpiGenomics in the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology at Delaware State University (DSU). Dr. Kalavacharla joined DSU as an assistant professor in 2006, became associate professor in 2009, and professor in 2014. Since 2009, he has served as the founding Director of the Center for Integrated Biological and Environmental Research at DSU.
Dr. Kalavacharla is actively engaged in understanding and improving crop responses to abiotic and biotic stressors in plants by using tools and methods from classical genetics and breeding to genomics, transcriptomics, and epigenomics. He has secured more than $19 million in extramural grants to Delaware State University from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and has experience in many crops including Brassicas, common bean, wheat, switchgrass, and salt marshgrass.  Dr. Kalavacharla’s teaching interests include plant genetics and breeding, and molecular genetics and genomics. He also advises and mentors undergraduate and graduate students from DSU and the University of Delaware.
Dr. Kalavacharla obtained a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from Dr. Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth (Agricultural University), India, an M.S. in Plant Science (research in Brassica Genetics, plant pathology) from the University of Manitoba, and a PhD in Plant Science from North Dakota State University (research in dry bean molecular genetics, plant pathology). He then worked as a postdoctoral research associate in the multi-institution collaborative U.S. Wheat EST Genomics Project (research on wheat expressed sequence tag mapping, wheat scab, and developmental biology). Dr. Kalavacharla then worked in industry in plant genomics, and taught majors and non-majors at Drexel University.  He is passionate about experiential learning and developed a layered mentoring program for students and staff while in Delaware.
Through NSF and NIFA funding, he has strived to bring together cohorts of students from diverse student populations and backgrounds so that they can thrive in an environment that supports and encourages them. Recently, Dr. Kalavacharla and colleagues developed a PhD program in Integrative Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences at Delaware State University to encourage inter- and multi-disciplinary research, training, and education aimed at developing today’s scientists who can work in academia, industry, or government.


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