Syngenta Agricultural Scholarship Winners Aspire to Make a Difference
The two national winners of the 2017 scholarship award are Aimee Uyehara, a graduate student who plans on becoming a researcher in crop science, and Abigail Han, an undergraduate who hopes to begin her career working for FoodCorps, a program within AmeriCorps.
Both of these scholarship recipients aspire to someday make a significant difference in the lives of yet another generation, as they plan to teach college and grade school students about crop production, respectively.
Regional and national winners each year share in the $20,000 annual Syngenta scholarship fund. A panel of judges selects eight regional winners, who are awarded $1,000 each. From the eight regional winners, the judges select two national winners, who receive an additional $6,000 each.
Every year, Syngenta chooses an essay topic for scholarship applicants to address. The assignment serves to stimulate the students’ creativity, so they can share their perspectives on a facet of agriculture. The 2017 essay topic prompted applicants to address what diversity meant to them.
“Agriculture connects people and cultures,” wrote Uyehara, who will graduate in the spring with a master’s degree in tropical plant and soil science from the University of Hawaii. “We’ve become more connected to each other via a global food network. We are now, more than ever, dependent on each other for survival.”
“Food security is a problem that will require people of all backgrounds, races and disciplines to come together to solve.”
Han, who will graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in crop and soil science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, wrote in her winning essay: “Just as in an ecosystem where biodiversity creates stability and resilience in a community, diversity within a field of work creates a positive effect. Food security, one of the most pressing issues in agriculture and the world in general, is a problem that will require people of all backgrounds, races and disciplines to come together to solve.”
After graduation, Uyehara plans to pursue a doctorate in crop science. She will use a portion of the scholarship to apply to Ph.D. programs and the remainder for her doctoral study. “Eventually, I’d like to have my own research laboratory and mentor students,” she says. “I’d like to have a position with a university.”
Currently, Uyehara is serving as a graduate research assistant. “I research for the lab and help undergraduates troubleshoot their projects,” she explains. “I’m excited about eventually working with students one-on-one and having a broader impact.”
At Virginia Tech, Han is a junior focused on classical plant breeding and molecular genetics. She also is pursuing a minor in geospatial information systems and global food and health, a new program at the university.
She’s already applied the scholarship money she received from Syngenta to her spring 2018 tuition. “The scholarship means less financial stress on my family,” she says.
Han has been an advocate for agriculture by talking to younger students about her studies and the career opportunities in agriculture. And last spring, Han also served as an intern for her local congressional representative.
“With my interest in agriculture, I wrote a brief about perennial-grain research,” she explains. I also attended House Agriculture Committee hearings. To continue learning about agricultural policy, I will be attending a food-security conference in December in South Africa.”
Han plans to attend graduate school, and she would like to teach children about agriculture and help start a school garden one day, she says.
Making a Difference
Sharon Perrone, one of the 2016 recipients of a Syngenta Agricultural Scholarship, is working as a teaching assistant in the department of horticulture at the University of Minnesota, while also working toward her master’s degree in applied plant sciences. She’s also a member of the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America.
After graduating in spring 2018, Perrone said that she would like to integrate science-based conservation practices into national agricultural extension, outreach and policy. An example would be helping farmers connect with funding sources, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Perrone said that she’d encourage any student to apply for the Syngenta Agricultural Scholarship. “Be honest with yourself,” she recommends. “Examine where you’re going and where you’ve been, and give credit to the people who have helped you along the way.”
Of the Syngenta scholarship, Perrone says, “I was honored and grateful to have received the scholarship and the recognition. I felt like part of a professional community working toward addressing the world’s grand challenges.”
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