Digital Agriculture Scholarship awarded

When one of her high school teachers encouraged Eva Henningsen to apply for an opportunity to attend the Borlaug Dialogue (World Food Prize summit) in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2014, she had little idea of the impact it would have on her career and life. Attending the summit sparked a passion for food security and agriculture, and has seen her embark on an academic journey that has taken her to several countries.

Eva is the latest recipient of the Digital Agriculture PhD Supplementary Scholarship, a scholarship offered by CSIRO in partnership with the Australian National University (ANU), which aims to support outstanding PhD candidates to apply information science skills to agricultural challenges in novel ways.

Eva’s project, titled ‘Genomic epidemiology of oat crown rust disease to facilitate rapid detection’, aims to generate a global pangenome for Pca, the plant pathogen that causes oat crown rust – one of the most damaging and widely spread disease for oat crops around the world. Generating the pangenome will help to better understand the pathogen’s genetic diversity and virulence genes, in order to develop diagnostic tools for pathogen surveillance. This project would be the first pangenome for rust fungi, and has the potential to be applied to other types of rust fungi which affect global crops.

Eva graduated from University of Minnesota (UMN) with a Bachelor of Science in Plant Sciences in 2019 and was able to do a brief internship in the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK, as part of her undergraduate studies. It was during her Masters of Science in Plant Pathology, also at UMN, where she had an opportunity to come to Canberra to visit CSIRO and ANU through a long time mentor and supervisor. She liked Canberra, and was accepted on a PhD scholarship to ANU’s Research School of Biology in Semester 2, 2021.

Eva says she enjoys bioinformatics as it combines her interest in food security with languages, in this case programming languages. She is excited as the scholarship provides her with the opportunity to work with CSIRO’s Data61 and new software they have been developing, especially as the team she is working with has a toolbox that is an excellent fit with her project. The supplementary scholarship also helps ease the financial pressure while her partner awaits his work visa in Australia.

The Digital Agriculture PhD Supplementary Scholarship was created last year by CSIRO’s Data61 to support outstanding domestic or international PhD candidates in the field of information science relevant to the agriculture domain. Their research focus would involve a collaborative project between CSIRO and the ANU, and would enable the students to work alongside leading research scientists and engineers in first-class facilities both at CSIRO and ANU. They would also have access to professional development to enhance their career, while building industry relevant skills and working on real-world agri-sector problems.

To find out more about the scholarship, please see link to CEAT website here.

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