Terryn Hutchings, Mary-Francis LaPorte and Luis Salazar
Terryn Hutchings, Mary-Francis LaPorte and Luis Salazar

Hutchings, LaPorte and Salazar named 2022 NAPB Borlaug Scholars

Three students in the Department of Plant Sciences will receive personal mentoring for the next year from a plant breeding professional who will shepherd them in their career development. In addition, they will attend the annual meeting of the National Association of Plant Breeders in August at Iowa State University, with all expenses paid.

The NAPB Borlaug Scholars program awarded the honor to undergraduate Terryn Hutchings; and to doctoral students Mary-Francis LaPorte and Luis Salazar. The three described how receiving a Borlaug Scholarship will affect their careers:

Terryn Hutchings
Terryn Hutchings

Terryn Hutchings, biotechnology major (plant option), B.S. expected 2023

 “My primary research interests revolve around using biotechnology and molecular breeding for grain crop improvement of both nutritional and agronomic traits. As a result of my research, I hope to deliver seed products that improve food security at a global scale and secure a food supply sufficient for the long term.

“Being paired with a Borlaug mentor is an incredible opportunity that will give me the experience, guidance, and challenges to help me achieve my career and academic goals, prepare me for graduate school, and future work in the seed industry.”

Mary-Francis LaPorte
Mary-Francis LaPorte

Mary-Francis LaPorte, Ph.D. student, Diepenbrock Lab

“My research involves genomic prediction, or using statistics to predict a phenotype based on genetic information. I’m interested in traits important in human nutrition, specifically those related to biofortifying maize with vitamin A.”

“The Borlaug fellowship is incredible because we have the chance to learn from mentors who have shaped the field of plant breeding over the course of their careers.”

Luis Salazar
Luis Salazar

Luis Salazar, Ph.D. candidate, Michelmore Lab

"My doctoral research on the genetic architecture of salinity tolerance in lettuce has led me to appreciate breeding for abiotic stress tolerance and recognizing how important it is for our future. I am also passionate about breeding for improved flavor in horticultural crops, thanks to my experience with breeding for these traits in tomatoes and as a home cook.

“Having a mentor through the Borlaug Scholars program will help me gain insight on how I can best follow my breeding interests as I prepare for a career as a plant breeder."

Aim of scholarship: Build up the field

Allen Van Deynze, a professional researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences, is chair of the National Association of Plant Breeders Borlaug Scholars program. He’s also director of the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center and associate director of the university’s Plant Breeding Center, which is a Borlaug sponsor. “The program aims to elevate the best undergraduate and graduate students interested in plant breeding by, not only exposing them to the latest research at the annual meeting, but also by developing their network of peers to succeed in the field,” Van Deynze said. “This is a very competitive program.”

The NAPB Borlaug program has supported 85 students since 2018. One of them is Chandler Levinson, now a postdoctoral researcher in Van Deynze’s lab and Borlaug program secretary.

Chandler Levinson
Chandler Levinson

“Being a postdoc at UC Davis is a direct result of the Borlaug Scholarship,” Levinson said. “It gave me so many networking opportunities within the plant breeding community, right as I was graduating with my Ph.D. and looking for jobs. At the virtual NAPB meeting in 2020, I received a lot of exposure as a Borlaug Scholar, and that was where I met Allen, and I reached out to him about job openings during a Zoom chat.

“The Borlaug Scholar program also paired me with a mentor in the NAPB community, Hannah Senior, CEO of PBS International, who guided me through the job-search and application process. She improved my success after graduation by guiding me and helping my professional development,” Levinson added.

Applications open in January

The NAPB Borlaug Scholars program seeks upper-level undergraduate and advanced graduate students attending school in the United States and pairs them with NAPB members as mentors. Applications for the next class of scholars opens in January 2023.

To learn more about the Borlaug Scholars program, visit https://www.plantbreeding.org/borlaug-scholars

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