Biological engineering student selected for Cargill Global Scholars Program


By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rising second-year student Vancie Peacock recently was selected to be part of the Cargill Global Scholars Program, an international scholarship program sponsored by global food corporation Cargill. Each year, the company selects 10 United States applicants to the program. Peacock is the sixth Cargill scholar selected from Penn State.

The two-year program includes $5,000 in tuition assistance and participation in two fully funded leadership summits alongside other Cargill scholars, one in the United States and the other abroad. Scholars also participate in one-on-one mentoring with Cargill business leaders and in leadership development trainings.

Peacock will join the in-country leadership seminar, which will take place virtually, on June 20 -23.

The program is tailored for high-performing students in majors relevant to the study of agriculture, biological sciences, business, engineering, food, international relations, sustainability or technology.

A biological engineering major and Schreyer Honors College Scholar, Peacock was encouraged to apply for the Cargill program by Caitlin Ting, director of Penn State’s Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring Office, as well as Juliana Vasco-Correa, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, due to her interest in sustainable agriculture.

“Agriculture is highly interconnected with our lives, so I want to learn how to view agricultural systems from a more holistic perspective,” she said. “Sustainable agriculture can be used to approach a variety of issues like climate change, land degradation, poverty, inequality and food insecurity.”

Food insecurity, in particular, is Peacock’s primary interest and passion.

“There are different components to food insecurity,” she said. “There could be a lack of access to fresh, nutritious food due to financial reasons, for example, the inability to find or pay for transportation to a grocery store, a lack of cooking knowledge or inaccessibility to a kitchen.”

As the University Park Undergraduate Association’s (UPUA) director of food justice, Peacock is working on a comprehensive, detailed list of all the resources available to students who may be experiencing food insecurity at Penn State’s University Park campus. She also is working to create a council of representatives from University student organizations to help better address student food insecurities by working together as an integrated team.

Additionally, this summer, Peacock is working on proposals with the Student Farm at Penn State to build community pocket gardens at Penn State University Park, with the goal of donating the gardens’ yield to the Lion’s Pantry, an organization that provides food and toiletries to students in need.

Peacock is one of five students working as a farm intern this summer at the Student Farm, where she is currently helping to prepare the fields for production.

“I hope the gardens will engage my peers in agriculture, specifically in seeing where food comes from and learning how to grow their own food,” she said. “We are developing a plan to build a garden for each academic college across the University Park campus and are hoping to start building the first one outside the Schreyer Honors College dorms this summer.”

In addition to her involvement in student groups, Peacock also is engaged in undergraduate research on several projects, which she coordinated with faculty the summer before matriculating as a student. Vasco-Correa serves as Peacock’s mentor and supervisor in her independent research projects.

One project investigates the environmental impact of emerging waste-to-energy technologies, which Peacock models using computer simulations. For work with this project, Peacock received the Gerard A. Hauser award, which includes a $500 cash prize, at Penn State’s Undergraduate Research Exhibition, which is given to an exhibit designated as the best overall presentation of undergraduate research.

This fall, she will continue to work with Vasco-Correa on a living biofilter that could help reduce dairy farm methane emissions.

“The research has been a great experience — an opportunity to pace myself and be responsible for my own work,” Peacock said. “It’s good practice to figure things out on my own. I’m looking forward to being part of a research team next year in Dr. Vasco-Correa’s lab.”

Peacock plans to continue her research in a doctoral program in biological engineering after graduating with her bachelor’s degree.


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College of Engineering Media Relations

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Vancie Peacock, a Schreyer Honors College Scholar studying biological engineering, was encouraged to apply for the Cargill program because of her interests in sustainable agriculture and food insecurity. IMAGE: PROVIDED