ASAP Scholars Program

The Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP) works to enhance the quality of agricultural and environmental education at the University of Illinois by supporting graduate students studying critical issues in agriculture, food systems, and their interactions with the environment and society. The ASAP Scholars Program is designed to recruit and support exceptional graduate students interested in agriculturally- related topics of societal import (eg: climate change, food security, environmental degradation, biodiversity, land stewardship, resource conservation, and social equity). Priority support will be given to topics that have obvious societal benefit that do not have well established sources of funding. We are particularly interested in supporting research on local grain production and use, plant-soil interactions, and agroforestry systems.

The ASAP Scholars Program is housed within the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences but is open to students working across campus.  The program consists of a 2 year commitment of a 25% 11 month research assistantship (RA) and tuition and fee waiver.  Students should work with prospective faculty advisers to develop their application materials. Co-advising arrangements are highly encouraged.

Students can submit their application to a suitable department on campus and submit a project proposal to asap@illinois.eduThe proposal should include:

1) Project title that identifies the subject matter areas of interest that ties to an ASAP priority.

2) Problem statement that provides background information that explains why research on the topic is needed.

3) Description of likely project participants.

The proposal should not exceed 3 pages.  Students must apply to, and be admitted into, the home department of one of their major advisers to receive this award.

Contact Michelle Wander for more information at

Former Scholars


Jaeyoung Han
PhD Student

As a PhD student working with Dr. Glen Hartman, Jaeyoung investigated the occurrence of nematodes in organic soybean fields in the state of Illinois. Plant parasitic nematodes, especially soybean cyst nematode, damage soybean cultivation throughout the United States, while free-living nematodes are used as a measure of healthy soil.  Jay’s research objectives were to (1) evaluate nematode populations in organic soybean fields, (2) track changes of nematode populations in accordance with application of organic amendments on organic soybean fields, and (3) conduct a greenhouse evaluation to investigate the natural suppressiveness of organic field soil in terms of control of plant pathogenic nematodes.

Sarah Brown
M.S. Student

Master’s student, Sarah Brown, worked on synthesizing the global evidence for the impacts of agroforestry on agricultural productivity, ecosystem services, and human-wellbeing.  Her advisor was Dr. Dan Miller.  Her research goal was to engage with farmers, researchers, and institutions to help inform decision-making and shape programs and policies to help support sustainable agricultural practices, particularly in the U.S. Midwest. She is passionate about creating healthy food systems to improve both the lives of people and the environment.


Ron Revord
M.S. Student

As a M.S. student in NRES, Ron designed his research in plant breeding around the betterment of agroecological systems. He worked with hybrid hazelnuts (Corylus americana C. avellana) to improve resistance to Eastern Filbert Blight. The study aimed to confirm pre-breeding and backcross strategies as well as improve phenotyping protocol and marker-assisted selection.

The deliverables of Ron’s study have been identified as critical next steps in the development of varieties for an expanding upper Midwest hazelnut industry. His work contributes to the further adoption of this crop and the associated ecological rehabilitation potentials.

This research grew out of Ron’s interest in permaculture.  Previously, he and and a small team of others including U of I student, Kevin Wolz, and author and permaculturalist Mark Shepard, worked to increase interest and understanding of Woody Perennial Permaculture.