avatar for Selena Ahmed

Selena Ahmed

Montana State University, Health and Human Development
Associate Professor
Research Interests
I am an ethnobotanist with research and outreach interests at the intersection of the ecological, cultural, and health aspects of food systems. The ultimate translational goal of my research program is to strengthen linkages and innovations in the food system from production through consumption and waste towards supporting local, national, and global food security. Towards this goal, I collaboratively initiated The Food and Health Lab at Montana State University (http://www.montana.edu/food-health-lab/index.html)) with the objective to carry out and provide training on basic, behavioral, and applied research to explore environment-food-health linkages.

As the Principle Investigator of the Agroecology and Ethnobotany Group of the Food and Health Lab and the Director of the Translational Biomarkers Core, I am particularly interested in identifying the socio-ecological determinants of environmental and human wellbeing in the food system. This work involves quantifying the influence of agricultural practices and food environments on ecosystem services, crop quality, livelihoods, food security, and diets in the context of global change and sustainability. Specifically, my research program focuses on the following three priority areas:

(1) Strengthening the Resilience of Farms and Farmers

(2) Enhancing Access to Sustainable Diets for Healthy Communities

(3) Building Capacity of Future Food System Leaders

My community engagement and outreach goals are to collaborate with diverse stakeholders to apply research findings to develop evidence-based plans, programs, and policies towards advancing sustainable food systems.

The theories and methods driving my transdisciplinary research draw from training in chemical ecology and clinical nutrition (NIH TEACRS postdoctoral research at Tufts University); biology, plant sciences, and phytochemistry (PhD at the City University of New York and the New York Botanical Garden); cultural anthropology and ethnobotany (MSc from the University of Kent at Canterbury); and economics (BA from Barnard College).

Teaching Interests
My teaching philosophy is founded on inquiry-based experiential education where the student is at the center of the learning process. I am a proponent that learning occurs inside and outside the classroom and view our surroundings as a place to foster hands-on educational opportunities. My teaching draws on eight years of pedagogical training as a NSF Graduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teaching Fellow at the City University of New York and as a NIH TEACRS (Training in Education and Critical Research Skills) Postdoctoral Fellow at Tufts University. Following my educational philosophy and training, I have designed interdisciplinary curricula on food systems for a wide range of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels including lectures, labs, discussion-based seminars, and local and international research-based field courses.

I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on the ecological, cultural, and health aspects of food systems at Montana State University. This includes core courses of the Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (SFBS) undergraduate program as well as the Sustainable Food Systems graduate program. In addition, I mentor undergraduate and graduate students on research projects as part of the Food and Health Lab.

I am currently leading a USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant “Advancing an Inclusive Food Systems Curriculum based on a Signature Pedagogy” with collaborators at the University of British Columbia and the University of Minnesota. A key goal of this project is to create inclusive and replicable four-year core curricula models for undergraduate programs in Sustainable Food Systems. Central components of this curriculum development involve the integration of the following learning approaches: (1) holistic and pluralistic (systems) thinking, (2) inter- and trans-disciplinarity, (3) experiential learning and, (4) collective action projects.