“I want to help people not be hungry, I want to help small farmers and industrial farmers, everyone, to be able to produce enough food.”
Mikayla Graham is one energetic young woman who knows where she wants to go and is not afraid to ask the questions to get there. A sophomore from Salisbury, North Carolina, Mikayla’s major is Plant and Soil science, with a concentration in crop bio-technology. ”I’m also minoring in genetics and microbiology, and together with those, I‘d like to do plant breeding or genetic engineering.”
She knows what she will do with her degree from NC State. “My whole goal for the future is to help solve world hunger. I want to help people not be hungry; I want to help small farmers and industrial farmers, everyone, to be able to produce enough food. I come from a farm, so I’ve seen the struggles that my dad has and I’d like to be able to figure out the problems those farmers have, and be able to help them increase their yield and their sustainability.” Her father grows soybeans and is also a beef producer.
Mikayla’s connection with NC State started in high school. “I used to want to be a veterinarian, so I was looking an animal science anyway, and I was in the online program, taking genetics and biotechnology.” She was invited to NC State to attend the World Food Prize NC Youth Institute. In 2015 she attended the World Food Global Youth institute.
“That experience is what got me into Crop and Soil Sciences: coming to the NC Youth Institute, doing the research project that’s involved with the program, it actually made me change from wanting to be a vet to wanting to do plant breeding and genetic engineering.”
Most of Mikayla’s early field experience was at the NCDA&CS Piedmont Research Station outside Salisbury, “which is only about five miles from my house. I worked there and got a lot of field experience and had the opportunity to talk to researchers about their projects and it got me really interested.”
Her academic advisor, Dr. Keith Edmisten, recommended her for an internship at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis last summer. “We looked at end design and content in blueberries.” She’s continuing blueberry research now in Dr. Hamid Ashrafi’s lab, helping with blueberry samplings.
But as meaningful as this research work is to Mikayla, she knows what she is working toward.
“I would be more in crop production type research, with a focus in genetics and technology. I’m more interested in things like row crops; and, maybe not bigger skill farming, but for my goal–I said I wanted to help solve world hunger–I think the big crops that go out to make a lot of difference; products like wheat or soybeans. Or things that help people have food to eat, and go to feed for meat production. Things like that is what’s going to help people have food.”
Mikayla is equally clear about NC State’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.
“The main thing that I love about Crop and Soil Sciences is how willing the faculty is to help you do what you want to do. No matter what question you have, you have staff that if you ask them, they either have the answer or they will point you to someone that has the answer, and they will help get you to where you want to go.”
When not studying, in the field or working in the lab, “I play the ukulele. That’s my down time. I like music; that’s been a hobby of mine since I was little. It’s easy to teach yourself the ukulele, it’s one of the easiest instruments to teach yourself to play. And you can cover any song with it.” Does she play the NC State fight song?
“I haven’t. I’ll look into that, though.” Mikayla laughs. “Maybe I can convince the band to add ukulele.”
Article by Kaki Carl