The deadline for applications for the Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program (MBBISP) is Feb. 1. Monsanto established this program in 2009 in honor of two of the world’s most pre-eminent rice and wheat breeders, Drs. Henry Beachell and Norman Borlaug. Their lifelong work laid the foundation for the tremendous increases in rice and wheat production that continue to help feed the world today. Since its inception in 2009, the program thas accepted 38 applicants.
Two scholars share their experiences below.
A Great Opportunity
By Renata Alhertl
At the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil, I started my undergraduate course work in agronomy. When I attended the breeding plant classes, I decided it was a way to make a difference and contribute to agriculture by improving production and the productivity of crops.
During my undergraduate studies and while pursuing my MS, I continued to have a great interest in plant breeding. At the beginning of my Ph.D., the opportunity to be a scholar in the MBBISP happened, and from there other opportunities have arisen.
I have met students from many parts of the world. We have exchanged experiences, not only about agriculture and biotechnology but also about their cultures and traditions. I have met many important and influential people from all over the world; they have shared experiences and shown people that we can make a difference by helping farmers and starving people. They demonstrate that it is possible for private and public institutions to work together to supply farmers with technology.
This experience has been my opportunity to be in touch with Bourlag’s world and learn ways to contribute as a plant breeder.
As I said before, MBBISP has given me a great opportunity to learn about and contribute to agriculture. This is especially important at this moment—the world’s population has reached 7 billion people and our biggest challenge is to feed this population with improved crops quality and higher production.
At this moment, I face a big challenge of living in another country (USA) away from my family and friends. However, this challenge will be very rewarding as I will develop the second phase of my research project. I am looking forward to learning new techniques, different professional opinions and learning many things about breeding and biotechnology.
I hope at the end of this process, I can apply what I have learned from this opportunity to improve crop production.
Maintaining a Family Tradition
By Chetan Patokar
We all yearn for careers that would allow us make a great impact on the things we value the most. I was born in a farming background, among acres of agricultural land, with a sub-optimal produce season after season. I felt that I could make an impact by devoting my education to the study of agriculture. This would allow me to continue the tradition of my family, which has been maintained over generations. As a result, the decision to pursue agricultural studies came to me naturally.
To structure my career, I enrolled in the post-graduate molecular biology and biotechnology program at the G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in India. I was fortunate to obtain a DBT Scholarship from India’s government for this educational opportunity. Dr. Sundip Kumar, who is my supervisor at the university, inspired me with his work on molecular cytogenetics in plants. My exposure to his work and his commitments inspired me to further pursue my studies in molecular biology. Since then, I have completed my Master’s thesis in wheat. Then, I was fortunate to learn about of Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program from Monsanto employee Jyotsna Bhatnagar.
This scholarship appealed to me, I applied and I was selected. When I delivered this news to my family, they were shocked. My mother was overjoyed and said, “It is unbelievable that your name is now associated with Beachell and Borlaug; two great men whose work has saved the lives of billions of people.”
Another opportunity from this program was to attend the 2011 World Food Prize ceremony. The World Food Prize is known as the Nobel Prize in agriculture. I had an unforgettable meeting with world renowned scientists. I met Dr. Gurudev Khush, who is known for his work on rice breeding, Dr. Ron Phillip, a MBBISP judge, and Dr. Ed Runge, the MBBISP program director. I also visited the Monsanto Ankeny lab where I learned about seed chipping technology and had an open discussion with Monsanto’s wheat breeding team.