Weaver & McLaughlin Graduate Student Assistance Awards Announced

NC State Crop & Soil Sciences Announces Graduate Assistance Awards

Graduate students are often characterized by their long hours and frugal lifestyles.  NC State’s Department of Crop & Soil Sciences (CSSC) is proud to have awarded graduate assistance to more than 30 post-baccalaureate students in recent years.  Higher education support comes through faculty’s federal research grants and the NC Agricultural Foundation, funded by many generous industry associations, alumni, and private enterprises.  Our department is pleased to announce the recipients of two recent awards.

James B. Weaver, Jr. Crop Science Scholarship

Navin Shrestha receives 2019 James B Weaver Crop Science Graduate Award
Navin Shrestha, Crop Science Ph.D. Student

This award was created in 2013 by CSSC alumni James B. Weaver Jr. who received both a master’s in agronomy and a Ph.D. in genetics at NC State.  This NC Agricultural Foundation scholarship requires a student possessing a strong minimum GPA and an interest in cotton research or genetics.  

This year’s recipient is Navin Shrestha.  Navin completed a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Tribhuvan University in his home country of Nepal.  He completed a master’s degree in horticulture from NC State in 2018 before starting his current Ph.D. program in Crop & Soil Sciences.  

Navin’s interests in agriculture are rooted in his country’s farmland.  His time at university there connected him with local growers who were battling significant concerns with diseases and pests.  He saw plant breeding as the main way to address their concerns.  “I wanted to come to the US to broaden my studies.  I wanted to be in one of the best institutes – when I found that NC State was in the top 10 for plant breeding, I knew I wanted to come here,” Navin said.

Navin’s primary studies focus on developing insect (thrip) resistant lines and map quantitative trait loci (QTL) for the disease bacterial blight of cotton, a major cash crop in his country as well as the US. “Bacterial blight of cotton is a potentially destructive bacterial disease for North Carolina cotton production. I am working to locate QTL for this disease.” Navin said.  He expects his studies to take an additional three years.  But it is time he is savoring.  “I’m fascinated with the faculty here [at NC State] and the technologies they are applying.  I’m energized just being here,” he continued.  “This scholarship award gives me great peace of mind to focus on my studies and research.”  

Foil W. McLaughlin Graduate Research Fellowship

Fellowships extend beyond tuition scholarship to graduate research study.  The Foil W. McLaughlin Research Fellowship was created by the NC Seedsmen’s Association to honor this former Professor of Crop Science seed quality champion.  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.  

Lais Bastos Martins awarded the Foil McLaughlin Graduate Fellowship
Lais Bastos Martins researches winter peas for her Ph.D.

This year’s recipient is Lais Bastos Martins.  Lais is in her third year as a graduate student at NC State.  She is currently working on a collaborative cover crop breeding project for crimson clover, hairy vetch, and (her specialty) winter peas.  Her work includes investigations in four areas: genotyping by environmental interactions, freeze tolerance, genetic studies for blight, and evaluating a semi-leafed trait on overall biomass.  

During her time at NC State, Lais has been active in many student clubs including time as the President of the Crop & Soil Graduate Student Association and the Plant Breeding Club.  Originally from Brazil, Lais chose NC State for the quality of the breeding program and respected researchers.

She sees her research as having great marketplace potential.  “There isn’t really hasn’t been any [winter pea] regional breeding for cover crop use.  Improved varieties have the potential for great biomass production compared to the current cover crop mixes.  Perhaps even monoculture cover crop potential for the superior nitrogen fixation, ease of termination, and lack of persistent weed seed,” she said.  

Receiving the McLaughlin Fellowship was a great surprise to her.  “I felt so honored to be selected. Certified seed has a lot to do with my project.  I hope he [Dr. McLaughlin] would be proud of the work our group is doing. We are working on pure varieties – cultivars.  That way farmers will be confident in the quality of the genetic material,” she said.  

Many Pathways for Graduate Study

NC State’s Department of Crop & Soil Sciences offers graduate programs in both crop science and soil sciences including on-campus and online options as well as thesis and non-thesis masters programs.  Partnerships with other NC State departments greatly enhance our programs, offering opportunities for tailored research experiences and unparalleled career preparation.

We’re serious about preparing our graduate students for meaningful careers that have an impact here in North Carolina and around the world.  For more information on Crop & Soil Sciences graduate programs visit us online to learn more about our study options and how we can help you grow your future.