Jimmy Zumba, Ph.D., MBA, spent 18 months with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Research Participation Program (USDA ARS RPP) at the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, investigating the application of Near Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy to the cotton fiber and textile industry. Zumba obtained his PhD from Louisiana State University in May 2008 and his MBA from Lehigh University in 2011, and after working for few years in the finance industry, applied for an ORISE fellowship as a means of advancing his professional development while gaining experience with the federal government.
Zumba’s research focused on the application of NIR Spectroscopy to the cotton fiber and textile industry. NIR Spectroscopy is a versatile method of quantifying chemical composition, which can reliably and rapidly produce information without destroying a sample. Zumba’s research helped to bring portable NIR instruments for cotton fiber outside of the controlled lab environment and into the field. He also authored seven publications during his time with Cotton Structure and Quality Research.
Zumba spent a typical day collecting and analyzing data. Often, he spent entire days in analysis. He found the program to be a “positive, very productive and life-changing experience.” He said his supervisor, Dr. James Rodgers, gave him tremendous support, and he was able to collaborate with well-known industry leaders across the country and within the USDA.
Though scientific research can have a deserved reputation for seeking out the answers to small, esoteric questions, Zumba takes a more practical approach. “When I research something, I generally ask the following questions: Is it worth the cost? Is it practical? What would the financial gain be? Is it helping society in general?” Those questions guided his inquiry at the USDA and kept his inquiry grounded.
Zumba is now a Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the U.S. Senate. His time with the USDA-ARS Research Participation Program gave him the edge he needed for this position. Zumba said he absolutely recommends the program to anyone interested.