NMSU graduate student awarded prestigious fellowship

New Mexico State University graduate student Derek Barchenger has been selected as the first ever NMSU student to be awarded with a U.S. Borlaug Fellowship and a trip to Taiwan.

Barchenger is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Plant and Environmental Sciences at NMSU.  Since a young age, Barchenger has been interested in plants, their genetics, plant breeding and ethnobiology, the relationship between people and plants.

Barchenger received his bachelor’s of science in horticulture from Oklahoma State University and his master’s of science in horticulture from the University of Arkansas.

The Borlaug Fellowship is a prestigious award named after the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug. The purpose of this fellowship is to provide United States graduate students with the opportunity to study with a researcher at a world agricultural center. Barchenger is among 23 awardees.

As a part of the application process, Barchenger was tasked with finding an international mentor to work with. Barchenger found Sanjeet Kumar who is the pepper breeder at AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center. Barchenger will be traveling to AVRDC in Taiwan – in May.

“I am really excited to see and experience Taiwan, but I am most excited to apply what I have learned here at NMSU for my work at an international research station,” Barchenger said.

While attending an American Society for Horticulture Science conference, he was introduced to Regents Professor Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of the NMSU Chile Pepper Institute.

“Later, I learned more about the Chile Pepper Institute breeding program at NMSU and decided it would be a great fit for me,” Barchenger said. “So I came here to study chile peppers!”

While attending NMSU, Barchenger has worked to become the research assistant at the Chile Pepper Institute and president of the Plant and Environmental Science Graduate Student Organization.

The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security graduate research grant program supports exceptional graduate students who are interested in developing a component of their graduate research in a developing country setting and in collaboration with a mentor from an International Agricultural Research Center, or a qualifying National Agricultural Research System unit.

Awards are made on a competitive basis to students who demonstrate a strong scientific foundation and leadership potential, propose a well-coordinated research plan that clearly articulates concepts and objectives that are innovative and feasible, and demonstrate a commitment to international development.

Author:  Shelby N. Herrera -NMSU