Keagan Ringling

Keagan RinglingHometown: Platte, South Dakota

Degree pursuing: Nutrition MS

Advisor: Dr. Len Marquart


Research Focus

In collaboration with the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics and the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, I am using a genomics approach to reduce anti-nutritive compounds in a cover crop, pennycress. Reducing these compounds can improve the economic impact of the crop by providing a use for byproducts generated as a result of pressing oil from the pennycress seed. Increasing the value of the crop will hopefully allow for more widespread cover crop use. Besides looking at the genomics of this crop, we are also collaborating with the Department of Applied Economics as well as industry partners to understand the entire pennycress value chain. Understanding the value chain of this crop will help to develop infrastructure necessary for the widespread adoption of cover crop practices.


How did you become interested in nutrition?

I was initially drawn to the nutrition program because I am an avid runner and have been interested in nutrition and performance for the past 13 years. Through several collaborations with other departments throughout CFANS, my roots as a farm kid eventually grabbed hold, and I started thinking about the relationship between agriculture, food, and health. As a result, my focus shifted toward connecting agriculture to health through food using systematic approaches.


Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?

After completing my undergraduate degree at he U of M, I wanted to learn more about the food system, and I wanted to pursue cross-disciplinary training opportunities that could make me a more impactful employee. Since Dr. Marquart was open to and interested in providing cross-disciplinary training, his group seemed like the perfect place to receive further education. Plus, the University of Minnesota is perfectly positioned in the amazing Twin Cities ‘food hub.’ I felt that the access to the amazing resources at the University as well as the surrounding food industry players could provide a one-of-a-kind education.    


How does your work tie into the research done in your advisor's lab?

Dr. Marquart’s lab aims to use systems approaches to increase access to practical, healthful, affordable, desirable foods. In the past, his lab has worked to leverage key players throughout the whole grain supply chain to increase whole grain consumption. As there are several components of my project that are nested in different parts of the supply chain, my project reinforces the lab’s efforts to use systems approaches to solve problems. More recently, the lab has started to analyze the relationships between food, environment, and design. As my project focuses on developing healthful foods that provide agro-ecological benefits, it clearly aligns with these efforts.