Fellowship program trains international scientists

News Release Distributed 01/15/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – For the past three years, the LSU AgCenter International Programs office has been hosting scientists from around the world through the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program to assist them with research in their countries.

Susan Karimiha, LSU AgCenter coordinator of the Borlaug fellowship program, said the fellowship, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pays the expenses for the scientist to come here for training.

Karimiha said in addition to land-grant universities, USDA also works with government agencies and international research centers to implement the program.

The fellowship provides for mentors here to work with the visitors during their 12-week stay. “Following the training period, the mentor spends up to 10 days with the scientists when they return home,” she said.

Since 2011, 14 scientists from 11 countries have come to the LSU AgCenter to work on various projects. “Normally they are interested in doing research on an agricultural challenge they are working on in their home country,” she said

The first grant in 2011 was to host an Indonesian scientist. “We did really well with that project. So well, that we’ve been hosting international scientists every year since through this program,” Karimiha said.

“Each participant applies for the program through the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. Fellows from developing and middle-income countries are eligible to participate in the fellowship program,” she said.

“The scientists typically have a work plan for a project that they want to work on in their country, but want collaborators and/or additional training,” Karimiha said. “So they can apply to the program to work on the project with U.S. scientists.”

The area of study for those awarded the fellowship is not limited, but projects have included solar drying to minimize post-harvest losses of agricultural products, minimizing the effects of agriculture on climate change and ways to help combat major plant diseases in their countries.

Karimiha believes improving people’s access to food is an immediate benefit of the research and in the long term helps improve food security.

Currently, a USDA Borlaug Fellow, Usman Ahmad from Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia, is working on postharvest grain technology with LSU AgCenter scientist Subramaniam Sathivel.

The two most recent participants in the program were Dorsaf Yahiaoui, a principal engineer in plant protection of fruit trees at the Technical Center of Citriculture in Tunisia, and Yen Pham, a researcher and lecturer at the Key Laboratory of Enzyme and Protein Technology, Hanoi University of Science, Vietnam National University.

During the 12-week program, these participants worked on plant diseases and pesticide monitoring, Karimiha said.

Yahiaoui is interested in insect damage to pears and apples in her northern Africa country, and Pham’s interests are in how pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture can be monitored for safety.

“This past fall, Yahiaoui spent her time in the LSU AgCenter Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology with her mentor LSU AgCenter plant scientist Jong Ham,” Karimiha said. “Her research focused on the development of new methods for diagnosis and biological control of fire blight, one of the most destructive diseases of apple and pear trees.”

Pham conducted her research in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry with her mentors Mark LeBlanc and Amy Hernandez, Karimiha said. “Pham’s research focused on analytical methods to determine pesticide residue.”

While the Borlaug Fellowship is not unique to Louisiana but is open to any university that applies, Karimiha said. Southern University has also hosted international scientists through the program.

The Borlaug Fellowship program pays the expenses of a scientist to train in the U.S. for the 12-week assignment, some scientists have returned on their own expense to complete further study with their mentor.

“The Indonesian scientist who came in 2011 to study sweet potatoes is back at the expense of her country for additional training,” Karimiha said. “There also are two scientists from Kosovo who are returning.”

Johnny Morgan

1/16/2014 12:21:32 AM
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