Supporting Academic Achievement
Each year, NPC awards a $10,000 academic scholarship to one graduate-level student conducting research for the benefit of the potato industry. The winner is selected based on a number of criteria, including academic achievement, leadership abilities, potato-related areas of graduate study, benefit to the U.S. potato industry/commercial value, extracurricular activities, and grades.
Applications for the 2019-2020 scholarship will be available in April 2019. For questions, email Hillary Hutchins.
2019-2020 Scholarship winner
The National Potato Council (NPC) congratulates Kirk Amundson, a fourth-year doctoral student in Plant Biology at University of California, Davis, as the recipient of the 2018-2019 NPC Academic Scholarship. The $10,000 award is provided annually to a graduate student with a strong interest in research that can directly benefit the potato industry.
Amundson’s work focuses on developing new tools to make potato breeding faster and more precise. Typically, with standard breeding practices it can take at least 15 years to develop a new potato variety. Amundson is working to introduce desirable traits more quickly by tailoring which fragments are transmitted to the progeny. He believes that this research will allow the industry to more easily adapt to shifting market pressures and a changing climate, by more quickly developing new cultivars with improved yields, nutritional quality and resistance to both diseases and pests.
Amundson has taken on many leadership roles during his studies. In addition to his work as a teaching assistant and course facilitator, he mentors’ undergraduate interns, lab technicians and rotation students in basic bioinformatics. He is also a part of the Plant Biology Graduate Group Executive Council, which hosts an annual departmental research colloquium and organizes a weekly seminar series. According to his advisor, Luca Comei, Amundson is “independent, motivated and inquisitive” whose research aimed at accelerating breeding of potato via haploid induction “will make a very exciting contribution, both to basic science, but importantly also to applied breeding of potato.”
Amundson was first drawn to plant biology and biochemistry work from experience in gardening and is drawn to the potato specifically due to what he believes as the positive socioeconomic impact the crop can have around the world. He volunteers at the Davis Grace Garden, where over 1,500 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables is produced annually, which is then donated to serve meals to low-income and homeless families in his communities. After completing his doctoral program, he hopes to find a position at a university and become a professor.
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