The Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program develops highly educated rice and wheat plant breeders who can serve as agricultural leaders. In 2009, recognizing the importance of rice and wheat in global food security, Monsanto pledged $10 million to improve yields in these crops as part of our commitment to sustainable agriculture. The program is named in honor of Drs. Henry Beachell and Norman Borlaug, two of the world’s pre-eminent rice and wheat breeders.
Administered by Texas AgriLife Research at the Texas A&M University System, the program supports projects that allow students to develop advanced breeding techniques and gain experience conducting at least one season of field work in a developing country. Students receive a stipend, tuition, applicable fees, health insurance, research fees and travel, as well as funds for the collaborating institution and advising professor. Since the program’s inception, 38 students have been selected as Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug scholars.
Julie Borlaug, the granddaughter of Norman Borlaug, discusses her grandfather’s work and the Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug program at the blog Plenty to Think About.
Applications are currently being accepted until Feb. 1, 2012. More information about the program and the application process can be found at Monsanto’s web site.
Three of the scholars share their experiences below.
Native Country: Italy
Home University: North Dakota State University, (U.S.)
Ph.D .Collaborating University/Organization: International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria
The Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug Scholarship is an award that goes beyond a pure funding opportunity. It is an honor to be able to join such a very special and warm family. In this family, my brothers and sisters are the most amazing young students in wheat and rice, and my parents are world-renowned scientists who have contributed to plant breeding and genetics in more ways than I could ever possibly imagine. When I am with this family, I am free to challenge myself, to challenge ideas and pre-determined concepts, and to break existing rules of science and form new ones.
A normal family around the dinner table would talk about the events of the day. Instead, my special Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug family discusses how to save the world. I realize that we may not save it by ourselves, but when I am surrounded by so many bright minds it is hard not to get bold. I am able to look into the eyes of each of my fellow scholars and say: “You can and you will! And I will be right there next to you to support you every single step of the way.”
Monsanto has made this all possible in honor of probably the best men that agriculture has ever produced—Borlaug and Beachell. I never had the fortune of meeting them, and I regret that more than anything, but I have read about them, I have inquired about them, I have talked about them, and I can feel their presence and inspiration any time I am with my fellow students. I cannot say for sure, but I think they would be proud of what Monsanto is doing, and hopefully, one day, when we finally demonstrate our real value, they will also be proud of us.
I am certain, however, that I am proud to call myself a Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug Scholar.
Native Country: India
Home University: CCS Haryana Agriculture University, (India)
Ph.D .Collaborating University/Organization: University of California, Davis, (U.S.)
When I think about receiving this fellowship, the first word that comes to mind is AWESOME. The Monsanto International Beachell-Borlaug Scholars program covers all of my expenses; all I have to do is the work. It’s more than just a fellowship. It provides me the opportunity to meet and interact with other awardees, judges and many other people in the industry. It has also given me the opportunity to attend the World Food Prize, something I have never thought I would be able to do. Getting the opportunity to work in lab in a foreign country has been a great experience. These things make it different, and better, than other fellowships.
Attending the World Food Prize and learning about the passion of people to make the world hunger-free is very inspirational. I heard speeches by Brazilian President Lula da Silva. They were very touching and much more than inspiration. I also like the fact that when you attend the symposium, you make friends from all over the world. I joined Dr. Dubcovsky’s lab about seven months ago. It’s the best opportunity I have ever had. Not just because it has given me the chance to learn a lot more about science. It has also helped me learn a lot more about myself.
If you’re interested in this fellowship, good luck and work hard.
Native Country: India
Home University: John Innes Centre
Ph.D .Collaborating University/Organization: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) (Mexico)
I don’t know where to start explaining my journey in the field of science, because I cannot honestly remember when I started it. I have always been curious about my surroundings, always asked questions and always sought answers. I was more interested in studying biology because of the sheer beauty of nature. As I grew up, the fundamental knowledge increased and I started asking myself what could I do with what I know? What could I do for nature, which has always inspired me?
During the course of my study, I have come in contact with a lot of people who have helped me figure out how to answer these questions. MBBISP has given me the perfect opportunity to learn as well as contribute to the field of agriculture. Better-yielding crops, in an ever- changing environment, are the key to a more sustainable civilization and economy.
All over the world, scientists are working to determine how to make plants more resistant to pests, how to reduce agriculture’s impact on environment, and how to make food more affordable. I am pursuing my Ph.D. at John Innes Centre in UK —a premier institute for biological sciences. I have interacted with scientists working in all realms of biology and related sciences; it has opened up a number of opportunities to address the aforementioned topics. I am learning new things everyday, and bit by bit I am also contributing to the existing pool of knowledge. It has been an enjoyable experience so far, and I am sure it will get better by the day.
I am not saying I will solve all the world’s problems, but the experience of finding something new is so satisfying. It makes you feel like you are already on top of the world. It is my hope that anyone who wishes to pursue science will be able to experience this feeling because it is the most rewarding. It makes you feel like no matter how small your discovery or contribution may be, you are one step closer to your ultimate goal.