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Unlocking Achievements from Horticulture Research Institute Scholarships


Three students from the Department of Horticultural Science have pursued their plant science passions, each with their unique path and achievements. Debasish Paul is a doctoral student who is focused on the sustainability of annual bedding plant supply chains, and he has received three prestigious scholarships at North Carolina State University. Ramsey Arram is a master’s post-graduate who was inspired to further develop his ornamental plant breeding expertise after earning a biology degree from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Lauren Staley, an undergraduate student, shares her experience receiving a Horticultural Research Institute scholarship and discusses how mentorship has been pivotal in her academic journey in horticulture.

Debasish Paul
Debasish Paul, a doctoral student with the Cognitive Behavioral Lab in the Fox Greenhouse plant conservatory.

Debasish Paul, a doctoral student

How did you find out about the scholarship?

I discovered this scholarship through Rachel McLaughlin’s (Graduate Services Coordinator) departmental emails, which she generously shared with all the Department of Horticultural Science students. After reviewing the requirements on the Horticultural Research Institute’s (HRI) website, I decided to apply. This scholarship has been key to my academic journey, providing the necessary support for me to continue my research and contribute to the field of horticulture.

What inspired you to pursue your horticulture degree?

I was born and raised in Bangladesh, a country with excellent climatic conditions for crop production. Despite the favorable conditions, growers are often short-changed when it comes to selling their crops for an appropriate price. I was determined to find a solution to this problem. This passion led me to pursue a Master’s in Agricultural Production Chain Management, specializing in horticultural chains at the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. During my studies, I developed a deeper knowledge of supply chain sustainability by assessing the Litchi supply chain. I discovered a significant demand for Litchi in the chain but that no postharvest management practice or food processing was involved. Stakeholders expressed a need for more Litchi production in the chain to meet the market demand. This research experience ignited my desire to extend my skillset in further supply chain research. I decided to pursue my doctorate in horticultural science at North Carolina State University to work on the sustainability of the floriculture supply chain, hoping to make a significant difference in the field.

Tell us about your current research.

My current research focuses on the supply chain of annual bedding plants in America. This unique study involves a nationwide survey to identify the roles and connections of stakeholders in the chain, as well as the factors that influence its sustainability. The outcomes of this research will be instrumental in guiding stakeholders to enhance their business-to-business collaboration and meet consumer demand sustainably.

In addition, I am conducting a study to measure consumer preferences and willingness to pay for sustainability attributes such as production method, origin of production, and certifications for bedding plants. The findings of this research will help stakeholders in the bedding plant supply chain measure consumer preferences and willingness to pay for different sustainability attributes. This, in turn, will help the stakeholders adopt the necessary practices to make their business sustainable and meet consumer demand.

Has there been an enduring impactful moment from your horticulture studies?

I am deeply humbled and overjoyed to share that I have been honored with three prestigious scholarships for my academic achievements at NC State’s Department of Horticultural Science. The HRI Mugget Scholarship (2023), The Randolph G. Gardner Graduate Fund for Excellence (2023), and the University Graduate Fellowship (2022-23) have recognized my dedication and commitment to horticulture. Additionally, I have been selected to participate in the Building Future Faculty Program (2023) at NC State. I am deeply grateful to all the organizations that have acknowledged my efforts and rewarded me with these esteemed awards.

Do you have any advice for others seeking scholarships?

As a crucial first step, I urge all students to regularly check for scholarship opportunities shared by our department and posted on the HRI website. It’s vital to initiate the application process as early as possible to give yourself ample time for preparation. Before applying, carefully read the scholarship description to ensure you meet all the eligibility criteria. Take the time to review your application thoroughly before submitting it. Remember, every application is unique, so you should present your story clearly and effectively to the scholarship committee. Lastly, ensure you submit your application well before the deadline. Avoid waiting until the last moment to submit your application. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me via email at or LinkedIn.

Ramsey Arram
Ramsey Arram, a Master of Horticultural Science post-graduate in front of a waterfall.

Ramsey Arram, a master’s post-graduate student

How did you find out about the scholarship?

I found the HRI scholarships on their scholarships webpage. They responded quickly to my submitted application. Then I was contacted by Dale Deppe, the owner of Spring Meadows. We had a good conversation about how he started the company. It’s important to write a short biography about your inspiration and academic path. Jennifer Gray, with HRI, instructed me on the details for the biography and the addresses to send ‘thank you’ letters.

What inspired you to pursue your horticulture degree?

I earned a biology degree with concentrations in botany and environmental science at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2004. I have worked on several farms, homesteads and nurseries in North Carolina and California. I also have created extensive ethnobotanical guides for wild plants for three regions within both of these states. In total for all three guides, I have approximately 1,330 entries for wild plants with ethnobotanical plants, though many species occur in more than one region. Throughout my career, I fell in love with being a lead grower and also the resilience of wild plants. These two passions were hybridized when Assistant Professor Hsuan Chen agreed to be my advisor for my Master of Horticultural Science degree. Some of the breeding projects I work on are to bring the resilience of wild plants into our ornamental crops and domesticated food crops. Other projects include traditional breeding methods to create cultivars such as Hibiscus. We often implement polyploidy induction which can overcome fertilization barriers, induce sterility, or result in interesting and favorable characteristics.

Has there been an enduring impactful moment from your horticulture studies?

The acceleration in my horticultural career would have been unfathomable before acceptance into the master’s program.I have had the great honor of managing the greenhouses and growing spaces for Chen. I have implemented polyploidy induction on five species and carried out most of the tasks involved in two extensive interspecies breeding programs. It is a high-energy program with an array of goals and species. 

Tell us about your research interests.

All of my classes were cultivation-focused, as I intend to work as a lead grower in research and breeding programs. The NC State graduate-level cultivation classes are as invigorating and enriching to my skills and abilities as the mass flow and diffusion of nutrition of the soil solution being carried into apical meristems and sinks. Every class has provided a rich bank of knowledge for me to employ in our greenhouses and growing spaces.The advice of Chen elevates my understanding of plant breeding and the importance in details of every task involved. Remarkable moments have been when I confirmed that polyploidy induction was successful for 16 plants of Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush), and also when Chen worked with me in publishing our paper: Genome Doubling of Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin L.!  I searched for polyploidy induction papers for the Lindera genus many times during my literature research. Now it is the first research paper available in the search results through Google Scholar!

Do you have any advice for others seeking scholarships? 

Passion, dedication, contribution and details were expressed with vitality in my HRI Spring Meadows scholarship application. The opportunity to manage greenhouses and implement tasks for our breeding projects has given me a rich array of horticultural research to write about. I know students from many paths in horticulture are awarded HRI scholarships. I would make sure to express your passions, the scientific details, and short-term and long-term goals. It is a great honor to receive the HRI Spring Meadows Scholarship. I will be flying out to their nursery for a tour this spring! I love the NC State Department of Horticultural Science as the passion for this walk in life attracts beautiful, kind, thoughtful and enriching souls. Our nerdy conversations can include subjects on carbon reductions in floriculture, pathogen resistance in tomato breeding, to the importance of permaculture on a global scale.

Lauren Staley
Lauren Staley, a Department of Horticultural Science undergraduate student.

Lauren Staley, an undergraduate student

How did you find out about the scholarship?

During my time at Alamance Community College (ACC), I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by exceptional people, particularly my advisors. Dean Elizabeth Riley, the head of the horticulture department at the time, shared a parallel educational path to mine and generously guided me through various ways to help finance my future studies. She presented me with numerous scholarship opportunities, one being the Horticultural Research Institute which offered multiple scholarship resources. This truly has helped me along my journey, not only through HRI but many others as well. 

What inspired you to pursue your horticulture degree?

As a transfer student to NC State University, my educational journey began at ACC, where I discovered my passion for horticulture. Throughout high school, I had been involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program where my interest primarily centered around animal science until I enrolled in my first plant identification class my senior year. Transitioning to college, I was uncertain about which academic path I wanted to pursue. I had heard that ACC had an excellent horticulture program so I decided to take my prerequisites there along with a few classes. It didn’t take me long to realize that this field resonated with me on a profound level, igniting my undiscovered passion. I then planned my next steps which involved completing my associate’s degree in horticulture at ACC, setting the path for my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University. 

 Has there been an enduring impactful moment from your horticulture studies?

Throughout my 2 years at ACC, I spent a lot of time working as a student worker with my position being the greenhouse manager. This opportunity led me to practice my skills through multiple hands-on experiences rather than just learning in the classroom setting. The role helped pave my career path and guide me to a more defined part of the green industry. Managing three on-campus greenhouses sparked my curiosity about larger-scale operations and motivated me to seek those opportunities. This also led me to participate in an internship at Plantworks Nursery where I got to experience large-scale greenhouse and nursery management. My times at both of these excelling environments most definitely made an impact during my horticulture studies. In May of 2024, I will have the opportunity to build upon my previous experiences as I complete my second internship at Greenleaf Nursery Company which will push me towards greater growth and success within the industry.

 Do you have any advice for others seeking scholarships?

Scholarships represent an invaluable opportunity for students at the college level. While the initial step of filling out the submission forms may seem daunting to some, it is crucial to recognize the great benefits they offer. A common misconception, one I used to face, is that with the application comes lengthy essays, deterring many from evening attempting to apply. However, it is important to note that not all scholarships require extensive writing. For instance, programs like HRI offer a process where a single general application form can potentially apply to numerous scholarships across various foundations. The financial support through these scholarships is undeniably beneficial in the long run. Even if one receives a scholarship for a modest amount, the overall impact of securing multiple awards can add up and contribute to one’s educational endeavors. Investing the time and effort for scholarships not only aids in relieving students’ financial burdens but also sets a positive motivation for one’s academic and professional journey. 

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The Department of Horticultural Science provides a hands-on academic path with real-world benefits and applications. Explore our undergraduate and graduate programs to learn from expert faculty and have career-focused experiences.

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