The World Food Prize Foundation

World Food Prize Honors Two Students with Prestigious Internship Awards


Outstanding students selected to receive 2018 John Chrystal and Elaine Szymoniak Awards

Des Moines, Iowa (October 19, 2018) - The World Food Prize Foundation announced Isabella Culotta as the recipient of the 2018 Elaine Szymoniak Award and Hans Riensche as the recipient of the 2018 John Chrystal Award at the 2018 World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa. Culotta and Riensche were honored yesterday for their exceptional research achievements as 2017 Borlaug-Ruan International Interns.

“The Borlaug-Ruan International Internship is designed to give the high school students involved an intense scientific and cultural experience that will inspire them to lead the their generation in confronting hunger and malnutrition. Norman Borlaug and John Ruan would have been so pleased by all of the reports compiled by our 24 Interns from 2017, and especially the two recipients of the John Chrystal and Elaine Symoniak Awards,” said Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize.   

The Borlaug-Ruan International Internship was created in 1998 by Dr. Norman Borlaug and John Ruan, Sr. to provide research opportunities to exceptional high school students and to foster the next generation of agricultural scientists. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship has sent over 300 students to 34 of the top agricultural research centers around the globe.

The Borlaug-Ruan Internship differs from other study abroad experiences by allowing students to participate in original research projects with acclaimed international scientists while getting a firsthand view of food security issues and nutritional problems in areas of the developing world. Through the internship program, the student spends time in the lab as well as days or weeks at a time in the field, conducting research and gathering data.

Riensche is the recipient of the 2018 John Chrystal Award for his research on locating tiller development genes in rice at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in China. He is from Jesup, Iowa.

“The World Food Prize is a truly unique and transformative organization. My time in China as a Borlaug-Ruan intern pushed me to adapt to a new cultures, introduced me to an incredible international friend group and inspired me to pursue a life in food security. I have not yet had any other experience which can match the power of setting aside the life I had become comfortable living, moving to the opposite side of the planet and exploring ways that I could make a serious contribution to the search for solutions to the world’s most pressing issues," Riensche said.

The John Chrystal Award was established in 2000 in the spirit of John Chrystal's commitment to enriching Iowa's relationship with the world and his belief that everyone is entitled to a sense of dignity and adequate food. The award is presented annually to the Borlaug-Ruan intern who most strongly reflects Mr. Chrystal’s commitment.

Culotta is the recipient of the 2018 Elaine Szymoniak Award for her research on the impact of solar-powered irrigation on women at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal.

“Learning about the world's numerous agricultural practices directly from their practitioners is incredibly important to whichever agriculture-related field one is pursuing. Before we can take it to the farmer, we must understand their wants and needs and from there continue Norman Borlaug's legacy towards global food security,” Culotta said.

The Elaine Syzmoniak Award is named for the former Iowa State Senator, Des Moines City Council Member and hearing and speech specialist known for her dedicated public service and great efforts to save the World Food Prize. Established in 2001, the award is presented to a Borlaug-Ruan Intern who exemplifies Senator Syzmoniak’s commitment to meet the needs of the community and dedicated efforts to promote education, health, economic development, equality and justice.

Riensche and Culotta were among 24 interns selected to travel to Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Prior to their selection for the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship, they attended the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. Youth Institute participants present research papers and interact with World Food Prize Laureates and renowned experts to discuss issues relating to food security throughout the world.

For more information on the Borlaug-Ruan Internship, please visit:

To view the list of internship sites, click HERE.

ABOUT THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE:  The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the World Food Prize has honored 46 outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions throughout the world. The World Food Prize annually hosts the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium and a variety of youth education programs to help further the discussion on cutting-edge global food security issues and inspire the next generation to end hunger.



© 2022 The World Food Prize Foundation. All Rights Reserved.