Six Department of Agronomy and Horticulture doctoral students were honored with fellowships and awards by the Agricultural Research Division and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the Distinguished Fellowships and Awards Luncheon on Oct. 18.
Those honored include Nicholas Garst, Jaspreet Sandhu, Adam Striegel, Alexandre Tonon Rosa, Madhav Bhatta and Raquel Rocha.
Garst was awarded the Al Moseman International Fellowship. He is advised by P. Stephen Baenziger, professor of agronomy and horticulture and Wheat Growers Presidential Chair.
The Al Moseman Fellowship is awarded to graduate students in the department with interests in international agriculture and world food development with an emphasis on plant breeding and genetics.
Garst’s research focus is on the challenges of seed production specifically looking at traits having to do with pollination as that is the limiting factor in making hybrid wheat commercially viable. Hybrid wheat has been a key area of global interest in both the public and private sectors as it offers around a 10 percent yield advantage over current inbred wheat cultivars.
Garst’s career aspiration is to work in the private sector to deliver better products to farmers and help feed the world.
Sandhu was awarded the Hardin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship. This fellowship is awarded to an outstanding graduate student and supports research in plant physiology with particular emphasis on genetic mechanisms influencing plant responses to stress conditions.
She also received the Milton E. Mohr Fellowship which recognizes outstanding graduate students in the sciences of biotechnology and engineering based on their academic performance and potential for accomplishments in their specific field.
Understanding the physiological and molecular responses to transient heat stress during early seed development in rice is the focus of Sandhu’s research. She is integrating genomics, transcriptomics, epigenetics, and image-based phenotyping approaches to discover the genes regulating thermal sensitivity. Her advisor is agronomy and horticulture associate professor Harkamal Walia.
Sandhu’s career aspirations are to pursue a teaching and research-oriented career in the field of plant molecular physiology.
Striegel also received the Milton E. Mohr Fellowship. He is a second-year Doctor of Plant Health student and an agronomy master's student specializing in weed science. Striegel is advised by Amit Jhala and Gary Hein, director of the Doctor of Plant Health Program.
Striegel's research is focused on weed control in soybean. He also prepares the undergraduate crops judging team for the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture affiliated contests.
Tonon Rosa was awarded the Shear-Miles Fellowship. This award is given to students with high scholastic merit and research potential in basic agriculture and are conducting either basic or applied research in agriculture. His advisors are Cody Creech, assistant professor of agronomy and horticulture, and Roger Elmore, agronomy and horticulture professor, Heuermann Chair and interim associate department head.
His research is focused on cover crop management in western Nebraska. He is evaluating the effects of cover crops on soil water use, weed suppression, nutrient dynamics and subsequent corn productivity when cover crops are planted after winter-wheat on a traditional wheat-corn-fallow rotation.
Tonon Rosa’s future plan is to secure a research and extension position in cropping systems or soil fertility to better prepare farmers to build a more sustainable agriculture for the humanity.
Bhatta and Rocha were awarded the Widaman Distinguished Graduate Assistant Award. This award is for graduate students with high scholastic merit and research potential conducting basic research in agriculture.
Bhatta, a doctoral student in plant breeding and genetics interested in a research scientist profession, is advised by Baenziger.
His research interests include exploiting untapped genetic diversity from landraces and wild relatives such as synthetic wheat, identifying novel genes or genomic regions controlling resistance to several biotic and abiotic stresses and improving the quality of protein and minerals of cereals and utilizing it in an elite crop improvement program. He is currently working on the identification of genes/genomic regions controlling resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses in synthetic hexaploid wheat.
Plant Pathology Department doctoral student Rocha is advised by Richard Wilson, associate professor of plant pathology.
Rocha’s research is focused on studying plant-fungal interaction using rice blast as a model system. Her current research focus is unraveling the metabolic and biological processes necessary for the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae to infect rice plants. She believes the identification and characterization of such processes will facilitate the development of new resistant strategies to control rice blast, as well as other important fungal pathogens.
Upon completion of her studies, Rocha intends to continue researching how plant pathogens respond at the genetic and molecular level to their host and what strategies plants use to fight the pathogen back.
For more information on these awards, visit https://ard.unl.edu/graduate-fellowships.