Prabhjot Kaur is a Ph.D. student studying genetic mechanisms of plant development in Petunia and Stevia

She loves studying and researching at MSU because it provides her access to quality research resources and allows her to work with colleagues with similar and diverse research interests.

Prabhjot Kaur is a Ph.D. student studying under Dr. Ryan Warner. She earned her bachelor’s degree in plant breeding and genetics at Punjab Agricultural University in India and her master’s degree in horticultural sciences at the University of Florida.

What is your Research focus?

My research is focused on understanding the genetic mechanisms of vegetative development rate in Petunia and Stevia. Development rate is a rate at which plants produce new leaves and has a direct influence on the time to first crop yield. Therefore, genetic knowledge gained from these two crops could be applied to accelerating the crop timing at non-optimal temperatures, increasing the production of seasonal crops and for increasing the biomass/yield of crop plants by facilitating multiple harvests per season.

Why did you choose Horticulture as your advanced degree?

I belong to a rural village in the northwestern part of India. I was born and brought up in an agricultural family in a region, known as "bread-basket," which produces most of the wheat and rice for the state. Due to a depletion of natural resources and deteriorating soil health, there is an urgent need for crop diversification in my home region.

Determined by a passion to solve agricultural issues, I pursued my bachelor’s in agriculture. I was a student member of the extension organizations, where I communicated with farmers and gained exposure to major problems facing agriculture. By observing the status of the marginal farmers that suffered due to a poor profit margin from cereal production, I realized that many of their problems could be solved by breeding diverse horticultural crops. Becoming a plant breeder and being part of the solution to these problems has motivated me to pursue my masters and doctorate degree in horticulture.

What has been the best experience in grad school so far?

Grad school is an excellent platform that has been helping me achieve my personal and professional goals by offering a research environment where I could work independently and by collaborating with great mentors and peers from diverse backgrounds. It has also offered access to various scientific and student organizations where I have been able to enhance my communicating, networking, and leadership skills.

What is the best-selling point about horticulture and your choice to study it at MSU that you would like others to know?

The best thing about horticulture is that it provides diverse research opportunities in both basic and applied areas ranging from working on primary fruits and vegetables to herbs, spices, and ornamental flowers and growing such high-value crops offers increased profit margins for farmers and increased agricultural diversification.

MSU’s horticulture department provides access to quality research resources and is a great platform to work with colleagues with similar and diverse research interests. Since my time here at MSU, I have always considered myself fortunate to be a part of such a community of supportive researchers who add valuable input to my research.

What are your future plans (i.e., what would be your ideal job after you graduate)?

Given my research background, I would like to be a plant breeder developing superior agricultural varieties with accelerated development rate, especially in crops that are grown at suboptimal conditions and that have limited-growing seasons such as fresh-market vegetable crops grown in cold-regions.

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