Sarah Evanega Joins BTI Faculty

by | Aug 3, 2021

A medium close-up photo of Sarah Evanega speaking into a microphone.

New BTI faculty member Sarah Evanega speaks at a communications training in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image credit: Farming Future Bangladesh.

Boyce Thompson Institute is pleased to welcome Professor Sarah Evanega as the newest addition to our faculty. Sarah is a science communicator whose research and outreach efforts focus on the nexus of plant science and society, and strive to ensure that plant science has positive impacts on agriculture, the environment and human health.

“My research program uses traditional and digital means to inform public policy and engage with communities through science-based communications on a global scale,” says Evanega.

“We accomplish this by training ‘bench-based’ plant science researchers, as well as other science advocates, in communications strategies and techniques to ensure their work has maximum impact on public policies and societal appreciation of science,” she explains. “We train with a purpose, empowering science champions around the world with the tools and skills needed to communicate effectively about science and promote evidence-based decision-making.”

Evanega joins BTI from Cornell University, where she was a research professor in the Department of Global Development and the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS). She will remain an adjunct associate professor in SIPS at Cornell.

“I am excited to join BTI because it is a nimble and forward-thinking institution experimenting with new models, not only at the bench but also in how science is done and who is doing it,” Evanega says. “Being embedded in a plant science institute of BTI’s caliber will help elevate my work to serve the plant sciences more broadly.”

Evanega also will remain the Director of the Alliance for Science (AfS), a global communications initiative dedicated to promoting access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life globally.

“In addition to proactively advancing our communications initiatives, the Alliance also develops strategies for countering misinformation about plant science and other salient issues that impact the health of humans and the environment,” Evanega says.

David Stern, President of BTI, says Evanega fits in with Col. William Boyce Thompson’s original belief that plant science research is essential to human welfare.

Text that says: . “We train with a purpose, empowering science champions around the world with the tools and skills needed to communicate effectively about science and promote evidence-based decision-making.” - Sarah Evanega“Our founder was motivated by the belief that the discoveries made at BTI would have a real impact on food security and the human condition,” says Stern. “Discovery-oriented research is our fundamental fabric, yet we want to seize every opportunity for the potential of BTI discoveries to benefit society.”

“While we frequently connect with the public about advances made in the Institute and with our partners,” Stern says, “There is also a bigger conversation about the role of plant science globally, and Sarah ably tackles that broader framework. Having her as part of our faculty puts a stake in the ground that this goal is important to us, as an institution that seeks worldwide impact.”

Jane Silverthorne, chair of BTI’s Scientific Advisory Board, notes that under Evanega’s leadership, AfS has brought science to the fore in evidence-based decision making, training programs to empower global science champions, and providing accurate information about advances in biotechnology.

“The move of AfS to BTI is a natural complement to the Institute’s research, which focuses on fundamental plant and life sciences aimed at increasing food security and improving agriculture’s environmental sustainability,” says Silverthorne. “It should provide new opportunities for synergy in their respective training and communication programs, expanding the reach and impact of BTI’s research globally.”

Evanega received her PhD in Plant Biology from Cornell University in 2009, for which she conducted an interdisciplinary study combining work in plant molecular biology with science communication. She came to Cornell after completing a BA in Biology at Reed College. Sarah grew up in a small agricultural village in northwest Illinois, and enjoys life in the Finger Lakes with her husband and young children.

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