Jaspinder Singh, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture doctoral student studying plant breeding and genetics, is advised by agronomy professor Paul Staswick.
Singh prepares samples to quantify the endogenous levels of a phytohormone, auxin. Auxins are known as key regulators of plant growth and development and orchestrate cell division, cell elongation and differentiation, root and stem tropisms, and more.
I grew up in a small village named Jawandha in the Fatehgarh Sahib district of state Punjab, India. Punjab is a state in northern India, and it is pronounced as ‘Panj-aab’ where the literal meaning is the Land of Five Rivers. Punjab was the front-runner during the time of green-revolution, thereby, also known as ‘Food-Bowl’ of India.
I completed a Master’s degree in agronomy from Nebraska in 2018, and am currently pursuing a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics. I am anticipating to graduate December 2022.
Why did you decide to study at Nebraska?
The credit goes to the cascade of events that happened during my childhood. The untimely demise of my father rendered me and my younger brother with no other option than to continue the inherited occupation ‘agriculture’ as a source of income along with the continuance of education. As a result, we developed an obvious and natural relationship with crop plants. This was the time when I thought about pursuing a career in plant science. After the completion of high school, I joined one of the internationally acknowledged institutes of agricultural science in India, Punjab Agricultural University. From PAU, I finished a degree in B.Sc. Biotechnology. In the final year of my undergraduate, I started looking for opportunities overseas to further broaden the sphere of my knowledge. I learned that Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources placed Nebraska at the leading edge in the field of plant sciences. State-of-the-art facilities available here are a rare and great opportunity for prospective students. I started contacting faculty members whose research work matched my interest. Fortunately, I established correspondence with Paul Staswick, who has done an enormous work related to phytohormones, especially jasmonic acid. Staswick accepted my application and provided me the opportunity to work with him.
What are your favorite things about the department and your program of study?
I like many things about the Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, however, the foremost is the diverse and friendly environment. When an international student flies thousands of miles away from his/her hometown, it is always his/her expectation to land in a safe and sound environment. I am proud to say that our department is doing a great job in this context. So far, this department has given me numerous opportunities to serve in various roles such as vice-president of AHGSA (2017-2018), GSA representative of AHGSA (2021-2022), committee member of Nebraska Plant Breeding Symposium, graduate student committee member for an annual conference organized by National Association of Plant Breeders, and graduate student representative in the course curriculum committee, etc. While serving in these positions, I have interacted with many faculty members in this department, and I am very glad to mention that from time to time every one of them has guided me in the right direction. Experienced gained from this department is also helping me to serve in a couple of national-level associations as well.
Describe your research.
My main research work is to find the mode of action and underlying molecular mechanisms behind the activity of a tertiary amine plant growth regulator, BMVE. BMVE is a compound patented by a regional seed company of Nebraska, Kamterter. Kamterter claims that the seed treatment with BMVE before sowing out in the field results in vigorous growth and development. However, it is not known how this compound imparts its effect and works at the molecular level. My job is to investigate its biological activity so that Kamterter can use this knowledge and incorporate BMVE treatment into seed priming techniques for commercial purposes.
What are your plans post-graduation?
Since I am working on a project that has direct or indirect significance at the industrial level, I am more inclined towards pursuing a career in crop science-based industries.