2021 Graduate Fellowships Fuel Crop and Soil Research

a graduate student in a red shirt takes a soil sample

Graduate students help fuel NC State research. The graduate fusion of work-study advances their academic knowledge and accelerates discovery. But it’s a life stage often marked by long hours and shoestring budgets. 

NC State’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences is proud to provide or connect financial assistance to many of our post-baccalaureate students each year. 

Graduate education is critical to our scientists and land grant university mission,” said Charles Peacock, Director of Crop Science Graduate Programs.Student participation in these research programs provides an outstanding example of how we put the mission into action.” 

Higher education support, like fellowships, is funded by many generous industry associations, alumni, and private enterprises. 

“Fellowships allow us to attract and retain outstanding young scientists to our cutting-edge programs that benefit North Carolina and the world,” said Mike Mullen, Director of Soil Science Graduate Programs. 

Our department is pleased to highlight a few of our current student assistance recipients.

Eugene J. Kamprath Soil Science Fellowship

Woman in a yellow shirt digs in the soilThe North Carolina Agricultural Foundation created the Eugene J. Kamprath Fellowship in 2007 to honor Kamprath’s lifetime of achievements in and contributions to soil science. Eugene Kamprath joined NC State’s soil science department in 1955 after completing a doctorate in agronomy. He worked from assistant to full professor and eventually became the head of the Department of Soil Science from 1989 to 1996 when he retired. He also served as Director of the Soil Testing Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

Mariela Pérez-Sepúlveda of San Germán, Puerto Rico, received the Kamprath Fellowship for 2021. She is a Ph.D. student who is planning research studies on coastal erosion, seawater intrusion, sea-level rise impacts to Puerto Rico. 

“I am truly grateful for this award and proud to help carry on the legacy of this department’s distinguished soil science program, including that of Dr. Kamprath,” Pérez-Sepúlveda said.

Foil W. McLaughlin Graduate Research Fellowship

Greta Rockstad is a master’s student studying turfgrass genetics.

The NC Seedsmen’s Association created the Foil W. McLaughlin Research Fellowship to honor this former professor of crop science and champion of seed quality. Dr. McLaughlin served as the Director of the NC Crop Improvement Association, specializing in seed certification. He was inducted into the NC Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1993 in recognition of his lifetime’s work dedicated to ensuring NC growers had the assurance of seeds with genetic purity and identity.  

Greta Rockstad received the McLaughlin Fellowship for 2021. Rockstad is a master’s student who is researching drought-tolerance genetics in St. Augustinegrass and high-throughput phenotyping technologies to assess drought stress.  

“I am both honored and grateful to have been selected for this award. Everything I’ve read about Dr. McLaughlin demonstrated his tireless efforts to improve the seed industry here in North Carolina and beyond. As I’m beginning my career, I hope to have even half as much of an impact as him,” Rockstad said.  

Becky Eure Rhodes and Neil Rhodes Weed Science Graduate Education Endowment

a graduate students works in a lab
Tripp Rogers is a doctoral student investigating herbicide-resistant weeds.

The Becky Eure Rhodes and Neil Rhodes Weed Science Graduate Education Endowment was created in 2007 to fund master’s-level study in southeastern weed science. Becky and Neil Rhodes are both NC State crop science alumni who wished to honor their family farming heritage in peanuts and cotton, their own contributions to academics and industry in weed science, and NC State, the university that brought them together.

Tripp Rogers received the Rhodes Fellowship in 2021. Rogers is a Ph.D. student who is studying herbicide resistance mechanisms of poa annua (annual bluegrass).

“It feels great to be recognized. This funding support is very helpful to my academic career. I hope that by studying herbicide resistance I can help North Carolina growers avoid or manage herbicide-resistant weed populations in their fields,” Rogers said.

Netherland Hoyle Weed Science Fellowship

Ph.D. student Jens Beets poses at a conferenceThe Mike Netherland and Steve Hoyle Outstanding Aquatic Weed Science Graduate Award Endowment was established in 2019 by the Aquatic Ecosystem Weed Foundation to support graduate students who are focusing on aquatic weed science.

Jens Beets was awarded the Netherland Hoyle Weed Science Fellowship for 2021. Beets is a crop science and fisheries, wildlife, and biology Ph.D. student from Hilo, Hawaii. He is studying the differences between hydrilla infestations in moving versus still water systems. 

“This award made me proud of my work considering Dr. Mike Netherland was my advisor during my master’s research at the University of Florida. Before his passing, Dr. Netherland encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. I try to honor his memory by maintaining a high standard of scientific discovery and excellence that he instilled in me,” Beets said.

AgBioFEWS Fellowship from NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center

Woman in a blue hat kneels in a field of yellow flowersAgBioFEWS is a National Science Foundation-funded graduate research training program offering Ph.D. candidates the opportunity to examine the science, policy, and public engagement of agricultural biotechnology on food, energy, and water. 

Ph.D. student Sandy Ethridge received an AgBioFEWS fellowship this year. She is researching weed ecology and biology to understand better how to manage weeds and help farmers diversify their management strategies.

“I feel honored to have received this award because it was a very competitive process with many qualified applicants. I am excited that I get to bring my knowledge of agriculture to a group of Ph.D. students with various backgrounds and experiences in addition to learning as much as I can from them,” Ethridge said.

Customize Your Advanced Degree

The Department of Crop & Soil Sciences offers advanced crop science and soil science degrees, with thesis and non-thesis master’s programs. Students have access to diverse areas of research inquiry, including crop breeding and genetics, crop production systems, soil chemistry and fertility, soil microbiology, and environmental management and conservation. 

Partnerships with other NC State departments greatly enhance our programs, offering opportunities for tailored research experiences and unparalleled career preparation. Programs are hosted both on-campus and online. 

Connecting students with growing careers is just part of how we are growing the future.

tractor mowing a field