Tech's Plant & Soil Science Department hosts Borlaug Fellow Tesfaye Bitema
This spring, Texas Tech University's Department of Plant and Soil Science is hosting a Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellow. In this case, it's Tesfaye Disassa Bitema, who'll be spending three months alongside his Tech mentors, Venugopal Mendu, an assistant professor of cell wall biology, and David Weindorf, CASNR's Associate Dean for Research.
The Borlaug Fellowship program, administered by the USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service, promotes food security and economic growth by providing research and training opportunities for scientists and policymakers from developing and middle-income countries.
"Hosting a Borlaug fellow is an accomplishment for both the department and the college," said Michael Galyean, dean of Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. "It sets a path for the department for future participation in this program."
Bitema is an associate researcher at the National Biotechnology Research Center of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While at Tech, he will focus on learning about advanced techniques in molecular biology including breeding and genetics, various molecular genotyping techniques and bioinformatics tools. The program is expected to enable him to share the experiences of U.S. scientists who are engaged in high tech research with multidisciplinary scientific teams, scientific excellence and strong scientific collaborations.
"In recent years, in its effort to strengthen advanced agricultural biotechnology research and development in the country, the Ethiopian government has established a national institute to act as a center of excellence in the field at the same time coordinating research and development efforts at national level," Bitema said. The Ethiopian institute has been built with modern biotechnology laboratory; however it lacks capacity in terms of trained human power, he said.
Meanwhile, a five-year project has been proposed to harness advanced biotechnology techniques for improved production and productivity and sustainable utilization of economically important crops in Ethiopia, he said.
"Introduction, characterization and adaptation of Bt cotton is among the top priority crops set by the government," Bitema said. "In order to achieve this ambitious plan, there is a need for trained manpower in the area of molecular biology and related fields." While at Tech, Bitema will be trained on different genetic, molecular and biotechnological methods for crop improvement. In addition, he will visit the cotton germplasm collection center of USDA-ARS, College Station during his training period.
The 12-week Borlaug Fellowship Program helps developing countries strengthen sustainable agricultural practices by providing short-term scientific training and collaborative research opportunities to visiting researchers, policymakers and university faculty while they work with a mentor.
Program officials indicated that Borlaug Fellows are selected based on a number of factors including academic and professional interests, level of scientific competence, aptitude for scientific research, leadership potential, and likelihood of bringing back new ideas to their home institution. They are generally scientists, researchers or policymakers who are in the early or middle stages of their careers.
Since the program's inception in 2004, approximately 700 fellows from 64 countries have participated in research and training focused on a wide array of agriculture-related topics, including agronomy, veterinary science, nutrition, food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, natural resource management, agricultural biotechnology, global climate change, agricultural economics and agricultural policy.
Written by Norman Martin
CONTACT: Eric Hequet, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0122NM16 / PHOTOS: (top to bottom) Tesfaye Disassa Bitema, Venugopal Mendu and David Weindorf. Editor's Note: For a related story on the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development program, go to http://www.depts.ttu.edu/agriculturalsciences/news/?p=6313
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Editor: Norman Martin
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