Ph.D. student at University of Idaho studies plant-parasitic nematodes, insect pests, and diseases of potato
WASHINGTON – The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF) is pleased to announce Paige Hickman, a Ph.D. student at the University of Idaho, studying plant-parasitic nematodes, insect pests, and diseases of potato, is the recipient of the 2022-23 Academic Scholarship. The $10,000 scholarship award is provided annually to one graduate student with a strong interest in research that can directly benefit the U.S. potato industry.
“Potato LEAF was created to ensure the long-term health of the U.S. potato industry by investing in its future leaders,” said the organization’s chair Shelley Olsen. “We’re thrilled to support Paige’s educational and research goals that will advance our collective knowledge and set us on the path for a better, more productive tomorrow.”
As a Ph.D. student, Hickman’s research focuses on creating practical control strategies and educating growers on sustainable pest and disease management. Her research is currently focused on potato cyst nematode (PCN), a quarantined pest in Idaho. The initial PCN discovery in 2006 caused a halt in international export of Idaho potatoes, severely impacting growers and the related supply chain. USDA APHIS, in coordination with the State of Idaho and the industry, contained the threat and trade resumed. Over the succeeding years, control and eradication strategies resulted in the quarantined area being substantially reduced, but the PCN-afflicted growers that remain are desperate for better eradication strategies.
In her application, Hickman shared, “I want to offer practical solutions and prepare strategies to control PCN. I am evaluating new trap crops and developing crop rotation schemes with trap crops and resistant varieties, developing predictive models to illustrate impact of PCN infestations on common potato varieties. Ultimately, my goal is to help eradicate PCN and preemptively establish controls to safeguard the potato industry.”
Dr. Louise-Marie Dandurand, Associate Professor at the University of Idaho and the Director of the University of Idaho Pale Cyst Nematode Project describes Paige as “although independent, she judiciously seeks information and feedback from myself, her committee members, or other resources available to her (such as post docs). She has a high intellectual capacity and curiosity. Ms. Hickman has consistently demonstrated the capacity to do independent research, and this speaks to her intellect and ability to learn, all necessary to be successful as a graduate student, and to focus her chosen career path in academia. She consistently impresses me with the depth of her knowledge on a diversity of topics, her ability to ask questions, and her reliability to follow through on all her assignments.”
As a part of her campus life, Hickman is secretary of the Aldrich Entomology Club and helps organize community outreach events to educate community members on insects including elementary school educational classroom visits, serves as a peer reviewer for scientific journals, and teaches lab techniques to students.
Potato LEAF, a 501(c)3 organization, works to provide tools, training, and support necessary to develop growers and industry members as leaders. As part of its mission to encourage and train future leaders, the organization seeks to support graduate-level researchers driving innovation within the potato industry. To learn more, visit pleaf.org.