Graduate Headed to University of Cambridge to Work on Food Insecurity

Using science to address food insecurity is Catherine Leafstedt’s passion. It’s a passion that’s driven her for the past four years and it’s one reason she’s been accepted to the University of Cambridge in England to pursue graduate school.

Leafstedt, who has a double major in agronomy and global resource systems, has had many internships and experiences both in the United States and around the world.

Her most recent international experience was a two-week internship in Uganda in January. After completing her research on biofortification initiatives in Uganda, Leafstedt had the opportunity to interview Ugandan farmers and meet with Ugandan stakeholders. Leafstedt said the experience brought real-world context to her research.

Leafstedt is currently in a Global Resource Systems class working to complete consulting projects. Her group is working with the Iowa State University Uganda Program to improve the Nutrition Education Centers. Leafstedt said it is rewarding to see her involvement with Uganda come full-circle.

“It’s been a holistic experience - I completed the initial research, then I went to Uganda and saw some of the programs, and now we’re investigating how to utilize research and student understanding to better serve the program beneficiaries,” Leafstedt said.

Even though she is graduating in the spring, she's looking forward to more experiences.

Leafstedt has been selected as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student marshal for the Iowa State University Commencement Ceremony. Her mentor and adviser, Maria Salas Fernandez, an associate professor in agronomy, will accompany her at the ceremony.

“Dr. Fernandez and many others at Iowa State have done so much for me as a student, person and professional,” Leafstedt said. “As student marshal, I am honored to represent our college and some of the many opportunities it offers.”

After graduation, Leafstedt will attend the University of Cambridge to obtain a master’s degree in development studies. The University of Cambridge is ranked as the second-best university in the world and will open new opportunities for Leafstedt to continue to her goal to help feed the world.

“There is such a history and depth of experience at Cambridge, which provides a unique international perspective,” Leafstedt said. “I’m looking forward to this excellent opportunity to broaden my education.”

Before heading to Cambridge, Leafstedt plans to volunteer at the World Food Prize over the summer. Since 2013, Leafstedt has been involved with the World Food Prize youth programs, and she looks forward to giving back to the organization that has inspired her and many others to pursue careers in food and agriculture.