WEF Nexus Collaborators

Francesco Di Gioia, Plant Science

Dr. Francesco Di Gioia is Assistant Professor of Vegetable Crop Science in the Department of Plant Science at Penn State University.

He received B.S. and M.S. in Agricultural Science and Technology and Ph.D. in Mediterranean Agronomy at the University of Bari (Italy). Before starting his current position, Dr. Di Gioia conducted research and extension work on vegetable crops as a postdoc at the University of Florida and the USDA-ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Florida (2015-2018), and at the University of Bari (Italy, 2012-2015).

Working on several vegetable crops, his integrated research and extension program is focused on enhancing vegetable production systems sustainability and vegetable nutritional quality across different production systems (open field, protected, and controlled environment, in soil, and soilless systems).

Within this framework and in collaboration with colleagues that have complementary expertise, Dr. Di Gioia is interested in studying the efficiency and interactions between WEF security components and the overall sustainability (including environmental, economic, and social aspects) of indoor urban agricultural systems and evaluating their potential to efficiently produce nutrient-dense vegetables.

Siela Maximova, Plant Science 

Dr. Siela Maximova is Research Professor of Plant Biotechnology in the Department of Plant Science at Penn State University.

She earned Ph.D. in Plant Physiology at Penn State and B.S./M.S. in Agricultural Engineering at the Agricultural University, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Dr. Maximova's research is focused on the improvement of Theobroma cacao L., the chocolate tree, and she works at Penn State and in cocoa-producing countries, funded by industry, private foundations and government agencies. Dr. Maximova serves as Co-Director of the Program of the Molecular Biology of Cacao and Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Penn State Global. In 2019 she received a Land Grant University - Fulbright Visiting Scholar award to work in Colombia and later launched the Americas WEF Nexus Alliance.  She has also worked on projects in Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia/Pacific, and has directed several successful strategic research and education initiatives including the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. Dr. Maximova was named Inaugural Henrietta H. Fore Women in Science Fellow by CRDF Global.

Jasna Kovac, Food Science 

Dr. Jasna Kovac is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science at Penn State University.

She earned her BS degree in Microbiology and a PhD degree in Biosciences with focus on Biotechnology at the University of Ljubljana. Her pre-doctoral research was focused on molecular epidemiology of Campylobacter and antimicrobial resistance. During her graduate studies, she conducted research as a visiting scholar at the University of Graz, Quadram Institute, Iowa State University, and University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. She was awarded a FEMS Fellowship to study genomic epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance of Campylobacter at Oxford University, under the guidance of Dr. Martin Maiden. Post-graduation, Dr. Kovac continued research focused on genomic epidemiology of foodborne pathogens at Cornell University, in Dr. Martin Wiedmann’s lab.

The Kovac lab focuses on precision food safety, which integrates microbiological, next-generation sequencing, and cell culture methods to achieve precise and accurate taxonomic identification and prediction of phenotypes relevant to microbial food and water safety.

If you’re interested in joining the lab, please contact Dr. Kovac at jzk303@psu.edu.

Daniel Brent, Energy, Environmental, and Food Economics 

Dr. Daniel Brent is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education at Penn State University.

He received a B.S in economics and political science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington. His primary field is environmental economics with a focus on water resources. He uses empirical methods to understand incentives and evaluate policies in environmental markets. He uses methods of causal inference such as nonmarket valuation, field experiments, and the econometric analysis of observational data.

Daniel’s  research also incorporates elements of behavioral economics, such as the impact of social information and cognitive failures.  He is working on a variety of interdisciplinary research on stormwater, green infrastructure, water energy food nexus, and other water resource management topics.

Christopher Scott, Ecosystem Science and Management 

Dr. Christopher Scott is Goddard Chair and Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science & Management at Penn State University.

He earned Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in hydrology from Cornell University and B.S. and B.A. degrees from Swarthmore College. He serves as Director of the Americas WEF Nexus Alliance, Co-Principal Investigator of the SustainFood U.S. - Africa Network of WEF Networks, Investigator on the India Solar Irrigation project, and he is initiating work on the Pennsylvania WEF Nexus and Energy Transitions initiative. He offers an annual graduate seminar on the WEF Nexus.

Prof. Scott is an interdisciplinary scholar working on water security, water-energy-food nexus, climate resilience, social-ecological systems, and transboundary adaptive management. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 2021, he was at the University of Arizona, where he led interdisciplinary teams focusing on water resources, climate change, and WEF nexus challenges. Outside the academy he has worked fifteen years for NGOs, government agencies, and applied-research institutes around the world. He has ongoing WEF Nexus research in Pennsylvania, South Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Office for Research and Graduate Education


217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600

Office for Research and Graduate Education


217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600