Only 24 students in the U.S. receive a Borlaug-Ruan Internship each year. Two of them for 2017 are members of the Fairfield FFA Chapter in southern Elkhart County. Each will study under a well-known scientist in a different part of the world for two months.
The program was created by Norman Borlaug and John Ruan Sr. in 1998. It allows students to work with internationally recognized researchers around the world. Students spend time in labs, plus days or even weeks at a time in the field conducting research, interviewing people and gathering data.
Part of the goal of the program is for students to get a firsthand look at nutrition problems and food security issues in poverty-stricken areas of the world. Almost 300 students have participated in the program since it began.
Nate Bowser will work with Francismar Correla Marcelino-Guimaraes at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp. in Londrina, Brazil. He will work with functional genetics to prospect for genes that could be used to develop resistance or tolerance to Asian soybean rust and nematodes, among other soybean pests. Bowser graduated from Fairfield High School this spring and will attend Purdue University this fall, majoring in plant genetics, breeding and technology.
Emily Miller will spend her time at the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center in Changsha, China. She will work with one of the top genomic researchers in the world. Miller graduated from Fairfield High School in 2016. She attends Purdue and is majoring in plant genetics, breeding and technology.
The goal of the internship, spokespeople note, is to engage young students in actual research that is geared at fighting worldwide hunger. The ultimate goal is that the experience will inspire students like Bowser and Miller to pursue careers in ag technology, food science and natural resource conservation.
Kraig Bowers, FFA advisor at Fairfield High School, provided information for this story.