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### Ceremony Honors Graduate Student Excellence in College of Agricultural Sciences

Awards Presented …

Beth Gugino expressed appreciation for the award recipients and their contributions to positive change in the world.

PUBLISHED ON April 8, 2024

Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences recently conducted its annual Graduate Student Award Celebration. Among the recognized students were Jamison Malcolm, Abhinay Gontu, Andrew Lefever, Meredith Persico, Pradip Poudel, Sailesh Sigdel, Emma Rice, Jessica Brown, Marissa Kopp, Krystal Snyder, Sadikshya Sharma, and Olanrewaju Shitu. The event, credited to Kaiyi Chan, was held at University Park.

In a ceremony hosted by the Office for Research and Graduate Education on March 20 at the University Park campus, graduate students in Penn State were commended for their accomplishments during the 2024 Graduate Student Award Celebration.

Beth Gugino, the assistant dean for graduate education, emphasized that the awards were established through endowments and donations to acknowledge the excellence of graduate students. She highlighted the rigorous selection process and thanked the nominators and reviewers for their dedication.

Andrew Lefever and Sailesh Sigdel, doctoral students specializing in agricultural and environmental plant science, were honored with the C. Reese Berdanier Graduate Program Support in Crop and Soil Sciences. This award, supported by a donation from C. Reese Berdanier, recognizes outstanding graduate students in agronomy and soil science.

The Evans Family Award for Graduate Student Extension Achievement was presented to Jessica Brown, a doctoral candidate in ecology. Brown played a key role in establishing the vector-borne disease team at [ppp1].

Abhinay Gontu, focusing on pathobiology, and Pradip Poudel, specializing in agricultural and environmental plant science, received the Paul Hand Award for Graduate Student Research Achievement. Gontu’s research centers on developing RNA-based prophylactics and therapeutics targeting SARS-CoV-2 variants, while Poudel explores agronomic biofortification of microgreens with essential micronutrients.

Marissa Kopp, a doctoral candidate in the ecology program, was honored with the Paul Hand Award for Graduate Student Teaching Achievement. Kopp was recognized for her teaching excellence in the science communication course for environmental resource management undergraduates.

Emma Rice, pursuing a doctoral degree in ecology, received the Katherine Mabis McKenna Award for her research on molecular-based methods for determining root abundance in plant mixtures.

Olanrewaju Shittu, a doctoral candidate in plant pathology with a dual-title degree in international agriculture and development, was awarded the Barbara Howell Raphael Educational Equity Graduate Scholarship for his research on disease-resistant wheat varieties.

Sadie Sharma, a doctoral candidate in forest resources, was the recipient of the William J. and Anne E. Scarlett Award in Watershed Stewardship for her research on water conservation and stewardship.

Krystal Snyder, a master’s student in agricultural and environmental plant science, received the Penn State Extension Graduate Scholarship for her work on hydroponic production and efficient fertilizer use in lettuce production.

The College of Agricultural Sciences Outstanding Dissertation Award was presented to doctoral candidates Jamison Malcolm, Meredith Persico, and Abhinay Gontu, who also received the Paul Hand Award for Graduate Student Research Achievement.

Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences continues to recognize and celebrate the academic achievements and contributions of its outstanding graduate students.