Back to Officials


Name: Ramaswamy, Sonny
Current Position: Director

An entomologist whose views of agriculture have been powerfully influenced by memories of famine in his native India has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Administrator of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Part of the Department of Agriculture, NIFA administers federal grant programs for agricultural, environment and human health research and education primarily at state universities, and by other approved partner institutions. Sanathkumar “Sonny” Ramaswamy, who considers himself an immigrant success story, has spent his academic career performing just the sort of research that NIFA funds.

Born in September 1951 in Bangalore, India, Sonny Ramaswamy’s parents were Ramu Ramaswamy, a commandant in the paramilitary Special Reserve Police, and Srimathi Ramaswamy, who taught sewing and raised her four sons alone after Ramu died in a fire when Sonny was ten years old. Although Hindu, Ramaswamy attended Christian schools as a child, and earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Entomology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore in 1973 and 1976, respectively. He came to the U.S. to earn his Ph.D. in Entomology at Rutgers University in 1980, with a dissertation entitled, “Precopulatory Behavior of Blattella Germanica (L.) (Dictyoptera: Blattellidae): Effects of Juvenile Hormone on Sense Organs and Responses of Females to Synthetic Male Tergal Gland Secretions.”
After a postdoctoral appointment at Michigan State University in 1981, Ramaswamy taught in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University from August 1982 to June 1997, where he advanced from assistant professor to full professor. He left for Kansas State University, where he was named head of Entomology in 1997 and University Distinguished Professor in 2004.
In January 2006, Ramaswamy became the director of Agricultural Research Programs and associate dean for Research in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, where he stayed until July 2009. On August 1, 2009, he became the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station at Oregon State University.
Ramaswamy has received numerous research grants from various federal agencies, state agencies, commodity groups, and industry; has mentored many students; and has published nearly 150 journal articles, book chapters, and a book. He has received a number of awards and honors as a scientist and department head, including being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Entomological Society of America.
Ramaswamy is married to Gita Ramaswamy, who is director of assessment at Oregon State University. Their daughter, Megha, is an assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. His stated interests include reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Apple computers, the theatre, and riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In 2010, Ramaswamy donated $200 to Democrat Raj Goyle’s unsuccessful campaign to represent Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District.
-Matt Bewig
Bookmark and Share