Dr Jenna Ross, Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, has been made an OBE in the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours list for her contribution to science and agriculture.
Growing up in Tarland, farming was in Dr Ross’ blood and her interest in agriculture started at an early age on the family farm. However, science didn’t come naturally to her at first.
Dr Ross explains: “When I was at school, I found myself failing my way through my standard grade chemistry class however my teacher at the time, a lovely lady called Dr Campbell, gave me extra tuition during lunchtimes. If it hadn’t been for her extra support, I might not be where I am today. That one person changed my career path. She turned something I hated into something I loved, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to Dr Campbell and to all the amazing teachers, lecturers, mentors, champions, friends and of course my family, who have supported me along my journey. I hope that in the work that I do, I am that same champion for others in agriculture and science. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the next generation in STEM subjects and showcasing the wide range of career opportunities which are available within agriculture and science.
“The north east is a fantastic place for educational opportunities with great schools and two world-class universities. I was fortunate enough to attend Aboyne Academy where I was supported and encouraged to pursue science. I have completed a first-class degree and MBA at Robert Gordon University and my PhD and Post-Doctoral training in Environmental Science at the University of Aberdeen. I chose to do my MBA with Robert Gordon University through distance learning while I was working internationally simply because the quality of the Aberdeen education is world class.
“I am hugely shocked and massively honoured to receive an OBE and I look forward to using it to help champion career opportunities in agriculture and science.”
Dr Ross currently leads international development for UK Government funded Agri-Tech centre, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), fostering UK-international collaborations to develop game-changing agricultural innovations.
Her PhD in Environmental Science focused on developing biological control agents for molluscs (slugs and snails) and she is now a world-renowned malacologist and nematologist. Following her PhD studies, she conducted a post-doc at the School of Biological Sciences before emigrating overseas to Norway, South Africa, Tanzania and Angola to further her research and to support MSc/PhD students.
She added: “Molluscs are extremely important pests globally, targeting a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops. Working internationally gave me the opportunity to lead on projects focused on identifying and trialling new bio-molluscicides and novel technologies, and subsequently publishing four new nematode species that were previously unknown to science. My research has since expanded to wider AgriTech, leading projects focused on sensors, robotics, IoT, soil health and biologicals both in the UK and around the world.
“I am passionate about biological sciences, and I am proud to have been an honorary fellow of the School of Biological Science at the University for over 10 years.”
Dr Ross is a champion of knowledge transfer in agriculture, both at a national and international level. As well as authoring numerous articles, book chapters and grants, and writing for many periodicals, she has also presented and chaired at various international conferences. In 2019, she re-ignited the International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC) Slug and Snail group after many years of inactivity and delivered an international conference for the group in Valencia. In May 2022, Jenna co-chaired the Mollusc Working Group at the International Congress of Nematology in France. This was the first time that molluscs had been included as a standalone session in the history of the congress programme.
Outside of her academic career Dr Ross is particularly passionate about inspiring the next generation through her voluntary roles as a STEM ambassador and LANTRA industry champion. Jenna is also Chair for Nuffield Scotland, a regional group of the wider Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust and helps to promote and support this life changing travel scholarship to foster future leaders in agriculture. She is also a Director of the Oxford Farming Conference, one of the leading UK agricultural conferences, and as such, leads on a development programme for under 30’s called the Scholars programme.
In her spare time, Dr Ross is a keen bale artist. Her numerous creations during lockdown have inspired many in Aberdeenshire and subsequently led to her winning the Tour of Britain National Land Art competition with a creative environmentally friendly bike display which she then used to raise much needed funds for local charity, North East Sensory Service.
Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, welcomed the news of Dr Ross' appointment as an OBE and congratulated her on the recognition of her academic work.
He said: "This is great news for Dr Ross, and I am delighted that her outstanding contribution to agriculture and science has been recognised in the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours. I know the University community will be very pleased that Dr Ross has been recognised for her work."
Head of the School of Biological Sciences Professor Graeme Paton added: “Dr Ross remains closely linked to the school and is able to guide us on aspects of graduate attributes. She has always been an outstanding networker and highlights the value of a PhD both in academia and the more applied industries. She is very deserving of this honour because of the inspirational role model she is to members of the school and the wider community in the north east."