• My experience during AWARD Advanced Science Training at DuPont Pioneer and Iowa State University

    Phyllis Muturi collecting leaf tissues for DNA extraction.

    I won the AWARD Advanced Science Training (AST) opportunity and was awarded a placement at DuPont Pioneer in collaboration with Iowa State University (ISU) in the USA. The training I am undertaking will significantly improve my skills, experience and knowledge in the use of modern biotechnology for crop improvement to contribute to food security and improved livelihoods. While at DuPont, I am privileged to be mentored by two leading women scientists in this field, Prof. Maria Salas-Fernandez from the Department of Agronomy, at ISU and Dr. Laura Higgins from DuPont.

    I left Kenya for my research adventure in June 2015; this being my first time in America.  Barely two weeks at ISU, had I gained extensive knowledge and skills in environmental health and safety. The knowledge has helped me become more adept in the molecular laboratory and out in the field.

    During the course of my research attachment, I have had an opportunity to make presentations to the Sorghum Research Team (SRT) within Department of Agronomy at ISU and this greatly increased my visibility and chances for future research collaboration. The SRT is primarily composed of international students and researchers.

    This research attachment has helped me gain extensive experience in biotechnology including, while working with a highly experienced team of scientists.

    Since I supervise students at my home institution, Embu University College, I am confident that my students will benefit from the skills I have gained through this training and mentoring opportunity. Three months into my research attachment, I had an opportunity to visit DuPont at Johnston, Iowa. I established connections and learnt from Dr. Marc Albersen, Senior Research Fellow/Director of DuPont. I acquired critical skills for sorghum transformation, and was trained by staff from the Dr. Ping Che Laboratory.

    Later in the year, I was part of the team of scientists from DuPont who participated in the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois. The most exciting thing I learnt from the event is how US farmers employ sophisticated Information Technology, and remote sensing data for precision crop management, with astonishing output.

    In October, I was facilitated by DuPont to participate at the World Food Prize (WFP) summit in Des Moines, Iowa and I was inspired to conduct innovative research that will have an everlasting positive effect on human life without compromising the environment. I received professional recognition by the Global Harvest Initiative and was selected to serve as a member of the distinguished panel of agricultural leaders from USA and Africa. During this key session at the WFP, I contributed to leading a conversation on how agriculture and food systems can achieve greater productivity and sustainability to help feed the world and conserve our natural resources.

    In the month of November, I will be attending the Entomological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota courtesy of DuPont and will have an opportunity to learn, share and to connect with leading scientists, who will be sharing their latest research, industry advances, and product development as related to agriculture.

    Going back to Embu University College where I teach and conduct plant breeding research, I will share my acquired knowledge and newly learned laboratory practices, with the aim of having an impact and ensuring that all this relevant knowledge trickles down to the improvement of research outputs.