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STATEMENT OF PURPOSE FOR GRAD SCHOOL

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

A nearly two-decade-old dream turned into a still-and-glass reality after I received an offer of academic place in The University of Guinness (TUG), Cambodia. And I have since resumed my study for a Master of Science (MSc) Degree in Tropical Crop Protection, with research interest in Plant Pathology. Previous to my time in TUG, I have completed a MSc Degree in Environmental Plant Physiology at the Fanta University, Kwazulu. These opportunities avail me the requisite research experience for my interest in Plant Stress Biology.

Prior to my first Master’s studies, I interned at the Erudite Plant and Processing Research Group Laboratory (EPPRGLab) in order to hone my dexterity in research. While working under the supervision of Professor ABC, I was involved in several studies that border on plant processes, stress tolerance, and remediation biology. For the first two months, I primarily assisted with research projects of graduate students and other tasks assigned by the Laboratory Director, Professor XYZ. My critical thinking and research exuberance earned me my first independent research which investigated the antioxidant-based defense response of Chromolaena odorata (L.) exposed to spent lubricating oil-polluted soil. This research was analogous to my undergraduate honours research in which I developed a methodology for using plant-based biosurfactant in the remediation of oil-polluted soil and the findings have been published in Annals of Science and Technology.

Participating in the study on C. odorata (L.), I was actively involved from conception to writing the manuscript for publication upon termination of the research. I contributed in the experimental design, field work, and laboratory analyses. In this study, stem cuttings of C. ododrata (L.) was subjected to five different concentrations (1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 % w/w) of spent lubricating oil (SLO) in soil while the plant in unpolluted soil was used as control experiment. Quantitative data (such as plant height, number of chlorotic leaves, heavy metal accumulation, and nutrient uptake) as well as qualitative data (including colour and shape of leaves alongside stomatal architecture and enzyme activities) were obtained from morphological and physiological parameters. All objectives of the study were achieved. For instance, the study revealed a negative correlation between nitrate reductase activity and SLO concentration. This means that heavily polluted soil reduced the activity of the enzyme that is responsible for nitrogen uptake in plants. Results from the investigation also revealed that C. odorata (L.) is a phytoaccumulant of heavy metals and could be used in sustainable remediation of heavy metal contaminated soil. One major challenge I faced was incompatibility of research protocol with the available equipment in EPPRGLab. However, I surmounted the constraint by intensively reviewing literature which helped in optimization and modification of a collection of protocols for effective implementation with the equipment in the EPPRGLab. The findings of the research have been published in Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai Biologia.

During my MSc studies at the Fanta University, under the mentorship of Professor XYZ, I was rewarded with the opportunity to co-supervise undergraduate projects while serving as a Laboratory Manager, as my Professor always adduced that the reward of a good work is more work. Through this position, I was privileged to mentor several students including international exchange students from Germany and Austria. I organized lab sessions and focus groups to expose my mentees on the methodology in researching abiotic stress responses in plant as well as biostatistics. By the end of my MSc studies, during which I investigated the effect of cadmium on growth and yield of African yam bean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa (Hoechst ex. A. Rich.) Harms.), I discovered that there could be possible interaction between abiotic and biotic stress in plants. Since plant pathogens are responsible for most biotic stress of economic importance, I decided to pursue a second MSc Degree in Tropical Crop Protection so as to develop requisite skills in Plant Pathology. My current research in TUG involves using different primers to identify natural enemies of plant pathogens that could be used to develop biocontrol of the pathogens. I am confident that my previous and current research experience have prepared me for the rigors of independent research in Plant Science at the University of Eragon. Hence, an opportunity of studying for a PhD Degree in Plant Science at the prestigious University of Eragon (UoE) will push me to innovate and grow both in leadership and career advancement.

The major goals I intend to achieve during my graduate program in the UoE include:

  • Development of skills in collaborative research and communication;
  • Attainment of  hands on experience in the use of molecular tools in plant stress biology;
  • Advancement of my independent research skills in Plant Science;
  • Refinement of my teaching skills to face the dynamism in academia;
  • Investigation of possible interaction between biotic and abiotic stress in plants in order to develop economically viable strategy for Integrated Pest Management and
  • Learning the best practice in scientific communications and outreach activities.

When applying to graduate school, my thoughts are organized into three major aspects: the school, program and the people. All three stand out as particularly distinguished in the graduate college of a research institution like the University of Eragon (UoE). I am interested in the School of Plant Science in UoE because:

  • Aside being one of the recognized strengths of UoE, it is the most active interdepartmental program for plant science research.
  • Being interdepartmental, the emphasis is on research collaboration.
  • The research focus of the School of Plant Science involves a mix of basic and applied approaches which foster a stimulating environment for graduate training.
  • Ultimately, graduate study is offered in a friendly, personal environment in which professors and peers support one’s ambition and pursuit of knowledge.

For graduate study in UoE, I intend to streamline my research focus. Identifying how abiotic stress influence plant-microbial interaction is one thing, understanding the molecular mechanism(s) behind it is another. If admitted, my doctoral research will seek to identify key regulators of signal pathways governing plant responses to biotic and abiotic stress in disease development. This is because disease development connect physical and biological entities in triangular interaction and the detection of an environmental signal transmitted through a transduction pathway will play a major role in developing high resilient plant cultivars.

I am in contact with Professor TQM whose research in Environmental and Stress Biology is line with my interest. Although she confirmed that she is no longer in research due to her recent promotion, she assisted me with a link to Professor WWE. Professor WWE’s research interests encompass both biotic and abiotic stress response in plant and this is like a square peg in square hole to me. I also found potential PhD mentors in Professor FAO, Professor JBN, Professor FBN, and Professor GTB whose research interests strongly coincide with my interest.

A career in academia has been my dream despite growing without a father. I tenaciously held on to my dream while combining study and work to support my academic pursuits and also provide for my family. Although my academic performance would have been better than it were if I faced my studies squarely without thinking of funding and family support, I am thankful that I have made substantial effort towards achieving my dream. Presently, I am a recipient of FIRS award for the 2020/2021 entry. My MSc studies in TUG is fully funded by the ABJ scholarships for the 2019/2020 academic year. My previously research as well as mentoring activities have produced high achieving scholars who are current recipients of academic awards through BOD grants, CCTV Scholarship, and AIT Scholarship. An opportunity of a PhD (Plant Science) position in the well-regarded University of Eragon will help me to progress my leadership and academic pursuits.

I believe that a call to save plants from environmental stress is sine qua non to a call to save humanity from extinction.

I would be eternally grateful if my application is considered for PhD candidacy and financial aid, as I am committed to having a career in academia which will prepare me to mentor graduate level researchers.

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