Skip to main content

OCS Biographies


Dionne Toombs, Director for the Office of the Chief Scientist

Dr. Dionne Toombs is the Director for the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). In this role, she provides leadership on a wide range of issues affecting science programs and science policy in agricultural research, education, and economics. She comes to OCS from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) where she was Director of the Division of Nutrition, leading a collaboration of nutrition science leaders across the Department.  Under her leadership, the Division provided direction in science policy and program development to ensure the safety of America’s food supply and the availability of healthy food to its citizens.

She served as National Program Leader for NIFA’s Agriculture Food and Research Initiative (AFRI), leading large competitive grant programs to fund research into nutrition, food science and technology, and food safety.

Dr. Toombs received her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from Howard University. She earned her Master of Science degree from Alabama A & M University and her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Bethune-Cookman University.

Richard Derksen, Deputy Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist

Richard (Rich) Derksen is the Deputy Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). In this role, he provides direction and leadership on a wide range of issues affecting programs in agricultural research, education, and economics. Derksen manages review and product activity, tracks metrics, output, and impacts, and represents OCS on various Federal working groups and committees.

Derksen has over 25 years of direct research experience. He is an internationally recognized expert in crop production and protection engineering. At Cornell University, he held a joint research and extension appointment related to crop protection. In 1996, Derksen joined the Agricultural Research Service as a research scientist with a focus on providing engineering solutions to crop production and protection issues. He has authored over 200 publications, including 78 peer-reviewed journal manuscripts and given numerous invited presentations at national and international scientific meetings. Derksen received his Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Illinois.

William C. Trenkle, Departmental Scientific Integrity Officer (DSIO) / Research Integrity Officer

Dr. William Trenkle joined the Office of the Chief Scientist in January 2018 as the Senior Advisor on Scientific Integrity and Departmental Scientific Integrity Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In this role, he will help to develop Department-wide policies on scientific integrity, administer USDA’s scientific integrity program, and provide oversight of responses to resolve scientific integrity concerns. He also serves as the principal advisor to the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics on scientific integrity matters. 

Dr. Trenkle comes to OCS from the Division of Investigative Oversight (DIO), Office of Research Integrity (ORI), HHS, where he was the Acting Division Director for DIO and had previously served as the Acting Division Director the Division of Education and Integrity (DEI), ORI. Prior to ORI, he served as the Director of the Chemical Biology Core Facility in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), NIH, as a Program Director with the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry in the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), NIH, and was on the Chemistry faculty at Brown University. Dr. Trenkle has expertise in the forensic analysis of scientific imagery and was appointed to the NIST Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science as an inaugural member and Vice-Chair of the Video/Imaging Technology and Analysis (VITAL) Subcommittee. The VITAL Subcommittee is working on the development of national standards and guidelines related to the forensic application of technologies and systems to capture, store, process, analyze, transmit, produce and archive images.

Dr. Trenkle was an NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine and his Bachelor of Science degree from Alma College.

Advisors and Staff

Jaime Adams, Senior Advisor for International Affairs

Jaime Adams joined the Office of the Chief Scientist in 2011 as the Senior Advisor for International Affairs. In this capacity, Ms. Adams engages in cross-functional international agricultural science and technology collaboration with all levels of staff and leadership from government and non-governmental organizations. Ms. Adams' portfolio includes management of a multi-million dollar project and management and negotiation of numerous international bilateral and multilateral agricultural science and technology relationships. Ms. Adams manages the U.S. Government (USG) participation in the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. Ms. Adams has worked on international agricultural issues for over 10 years, having traveled extensively including serving in Afghanistan for over a year, and has supported high-level USG leadership including members of Congress, U.S. Ambassadors, and U.S. Cabinet officials. Ms. Adams earned a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her Bachelor of Science degree in International, Resource, and Consumer Economics was also from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Neena Anandaraman, Veterinary Science Policy Advisor

Dr. Neena Anandaraman joined the Office of the Chief Scientist in 2014 as the Senior Advisor for Animal Health Production and Products. In this role, she coordinates scientific collaboration and planning on high priority emerging animal health agricultural issues. Her focus is on zoonotic infectious diseases - those that can be transmitted between humans and animals -- including antimicrobial resistance and biosecurity. Her work provides science-based advice to senior leadership to help inform their policy decisions.

Dr. Anandaraman served as Team Lead for the Prevention and Control Team in the Applied Epidemiology Staff in the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS) at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). She is a veterinary epidemiologist and has been evaluating zoonoses issues for OPHS since 2001, focusing on foodborne conditions, especially Salmonella and antimicrobial resistance for their impacts on pre-harvest and post-harvest food safety. She served as a Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer in the Office of Field Operations of FSIS in Arkansas before joining OPHS.

Prior to joining USDA, Dr. Anandaraman worked at a mixed animal veterinary practice in Texas. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University, and her Master of Public Health from Tulane University. Dr. Anandaraman is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.

David M. Babson, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for Renewable Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment on detail

Dr. David Babson is the Senior Advisor for Renewable Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment in the Office of the Chief Scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture. David is on detail from the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) at the U.S. Department of Energy where he is Technology Manager. At BETO David oversees several projects for its Conversion Program and works to understand how to leverage new technologies to advance the emerging bioeconomy and address global energy and climate challenges. David is BETO’s federal lead for its waste-to-energy and advanced carbon commoditization efforts. Based in BETO’s Washington, DC office, David has extensive research and policy experience. Before joining BETO he advocated for sustainable transportation solutions as a Senior Fuels Engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and served as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Climate Economics and Modeling Center at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he reviewed key initiatives such as the Renewable Fuel Standard. Before starting his fellowship he completed post-docs at the University of Minnesota’s Biotechnology Institute and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. David received a PhD in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from Rutgers University and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Rena Bannister, Administrative Assistant

Ms. Rena Bannister joined the Office of the Chief Scientist in January 2015 as the primary Administrative Assistant. Ms. Bannister advises the Director and team of Senior Advisors of complex administrative processes and provides support in business greetings, executive correspondence, budget matters, procurement, personnel, data processing, travel, time keeping, program record-keeping, and report production. She is an expert on the policies and procedures for the development of issuances and other reports that are important across the Department. Ms. Bannister takes pride in serving as the first point of contact for callers to the Office, who may include Members of Congress, members of Congressional committee staff, White House officials, USDA executives and staff, high level executives from other Federal Departments and agencies, leaders of special interest groups, and members of the public. Ms. Bannister has received numerous awards for her administrative work since her first position in government service in 1984. She attended the University of Maryland University College from 1998-2004 and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Management from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Ms. Bannister is passionate about working with others, creating a collegial atmosphere at work, and performing office operations at a high level.

Genevieve Croft, International Affairs Fellow

Dr. Genevieve Croft joined the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) in 2016 as International Affairs Fellow. In this role, she works with the Senior Advisor for International Affairs to advance and ensure policy coordination of the Department’s international science and technology engagements. Dr. Croft’s broad portfolio includes managing U.S. Government participation in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), and coordinating USDA research contributions to the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy.

Dr. Croft has worked on national and international science policy at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), U.S. Agency for International Development, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and National Academy of Sciences. She has received both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowships.

Dr. Croft earned her Ph.D. in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, she conducted field and laboratory research throughout Latin America that led to a better understanding of the early processes of plant domestication. Dr. Croft holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Georgetown University and worked with farmers in Panama as a Peace Corps Volunteer, implementing sustainable agricultural practices.

Sarah Federman, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow

Dr. Sarah Federman joined the Office of the Chief Scientist in 2017 as the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow.  In this role, she works with USDA representatives to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) of the White House, coordinates Department activities related to plant health and production, and supports USDA’s role in the GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring program (GEOGLAM).

Dr. Federman has a strong interest in developing solutions to issues at the intersection of human development and the environment.  She designed and conducted original research in evolutionary biology, forged international multilateral collaborations, and managed field teams in Madagascar.  Her areas of technical expertise include: forest ecology and evolution, statistical coding, big data, geographic information systems, phylogenetics, and genomics.

With a passion for public service and inclusiveness in academia, she was involved in both Yale University’s Diversity Fellows Program and the Graduate and Professional Student Title IX Board. She actively engages in science outreach and education, working with diverse audiences through mentorship, publications, and presentations.  As a consultant for the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Sarah developed educational materials for online courses on plant biology. She has consulted on combating illicit wildlife trafficking and managing the use of chemical pesticide. 

Dr. Federman received her Ph.D. from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University.  Her research in the evolution of tropical biodiversity and the impact of extinctions on ecosystems over time was supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship of the National Science Foundation.

Shanker P. Reddy, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for Food Safety, Nutrition and Health

Dr. Shanker Reddy is a Senior Advisor for Food Safety, Nutrition and Health with the Office of Chief Scientist in the USDA Office of the Secretary. He also serves as the Senior Interdisciplinary Scientist in the Monitoring Programs Division of the Science & Technology in the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. He led the Microbiological Data Program (MDP) to its national recognition in food safety, until it was defunded in 2012. He also worked in the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Food Defense and Emergency Preparedness.

Prior to joining the US Federal Government in 2003, he led several programs on the development of vaccines against bacterial pathogens and discovery of signature molecular biomarkers for inflammation and cancer in humans for the development of drugs in biotechnology companies. He also worked in academia (University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, TX) on bacterial pathogenesis.

He graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, followed by post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI.

Paul Zankowski, Senior Advisor for Plant Health & Production and Plant Products

Dr. Paul Zankowski joins OCS on Oct 1, 2017, as incoming Sr. Advisor for PHPPP, bringing over 30 years of experience in plant sciences from basic to applied. He joins OCS on detail from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service/Plant Variety Protection Office (AMS/PVPO), where he has served as PVPO Commissioner since 2001. As PVPO Commissioner, Dr. Zankowski worked with public- and private-sector U.S. and international plant breeders to protect their new innovative varieties through the U.S. PVP system. He has collaborated with entities including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), Seed Association of the Americas (SAA), Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), USDA ARS Office of Technology Transfer, Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA ),and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), as well as other country’s PVP offices, on plant breeder’s rights issues. Most recently, he has been actively involved in a joint working group comprised of scientists from ASTA and the PVP Advisory board, on developing an effective molecular marker protocol for distinguishing plant varieties, as a distinction basis that can be internationally accepted.

Prior to joining the USDA, Dr. Zankowski held the positions of  Director of Biotechnology, Vice President of Research, Biotechnology Manager, Associate Director of Science & Technology, and Cell Biologist, for Harris Moran Seed Company in San Juan Bautista, California, working on improving fruit and vegetable varieties since 1988.

Paul conducted post-doctoral research in plant biotechnology at Advanced Genetic Sciences (Oakland, CA) in 1987 and the ARCO Plant Cell Research Institute (Dublin, CA) in 1986, and received Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Plant Physiology from the University of California, Davis and a B.S. in Biology from Penn State University.