Dr. Kirk Pomper is the associate research director of the Agricultural Research Station, which encompasses all areas of research in Kentucky State University’s College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems and the land-grant program.

In this role, Pomper oversees the research needs for the college, ensures the college is in compliance in regard to reporting to agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and reviews grant applications. The ARS also supports and mentors undergraduate and graduate students in research opportunities through internship and assistantship programs.

Pomper strives to make sure students have as many opportunities as possible to present their research.

“I think it’s an opportunity not only for the students. It also shows people all the great research we’re doing at KSU and gives visibility to the school,” Pomper says.

He recently took a group of students to the Kentucky Academy of Science conference in Lexington, Ky., held Nov. 14-16.

“It went very well,” Pomper says. “We had seven winners.”

Pomper plans to join students for Posters-at-the-Capitol in February 2015, and he’ll also take a group to the National Undergraduate Research Conference at Eastern Washington University in April 2015.

At home, Pomper is currently working with about 15 undergraduate and graduate students who are involved in agriculture and aquaculture research. Each student has been matched with a mentor; Pomper also serves as a mentor.

“I love what I do, and I love working with the research and helping the students,” Pomper says.

Pomper has worked at KSU for about 17 years. In 1998, he took over the pawpaw program; KSU has the only full-time pawpaw research program in the world. Under his leadership, the KSU-Atwood was the first pawpaw tree KSU released for cultivation. Soon another variety will be released, but the name has not yet been determined.

“We’re really excited about that,” Pomper says. “It’s a great-tasting pawpaw, and it has a very round shape.”

Pomper describes the fruit as having a mango-melon flavor.