How The World Food Prize Empowered Me and the Next Generation of Hunger Fighters
Whenever I walk into the Rotunda of the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, I am immediately filled with feelings of awe and inspiration that draw me back to the first time I witnessed that spectacular sight and read the words “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”
I began my journey with the World Food Prize as a participant in the 2015 Global Youth Institute (GYI). That year’s theme was “Sustainably Feeding 9 Billion by 2050,” highlighting the challenges we will face in providing a safe and sustainable food supply for an ever-growing population. In those three days, I not only learned about the legacy of Dr. Borlaug and the impact that he had on millions of lives, but I truly felt the impact as my peers and I presented our papers on a factor affecting food security and next-generation solutions that ranged from women's empowerment programs to hydropower to micro-irrigation. The opportunity provided us the chance to discuss with and learn from experts and provide our own ideas, and solutions. The GYI demonstrates the World Food Prize Foundation and Dr. Borlaug’s dedication to inspiring and empowering the next generation of scientists, policymakers, and entrepreneurs that will tackle the issue of global food insecurity.
When I attended the presentations of the past summer’s Borlaug-Ruan International Interns, I was astonished by their research posters and their confidence as they spoke of their work. I wanted to gain the same hands-on experience in food security research, so I applied and was accepted as an intern at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico. Adapting to a new language and surroundings was a struggle at first, but I soon came to love being immersed in the culture and life of Mexico.
My experience as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern greatly increased my awareness of the complexity of food insecurity. Before beginning my project, I was not familiar with the nutritional aspects of food insecurity such as micronutrient deficiencies. Even though a daily diet provides sufficient calories, it may still lack the essential micronutrients such as Vitamin A, which is the focus of the project I was working on. With complex issues comes a need for innovative solutions such as biofortification. As I learned more about this process of creating staple crops with higher nutrient content, I realized how dozens of researchers had worked for years in labs across nations to identify the genes and alleles associated with higher provitamin A content in maize and molecular markers for identifying these alleles.
My project was just a small piece of the greater solution, but it was significant nonetheless. My goal was to verify a crude DNA extraction protocol for screening maize seeds for a gene that is linked to higher provitamin A content, which would provide a more time and cost efficient process for screening seeds at CIMMYT. My interest has always been in molecular biology and laboratory research, and I was absolutely enthralled to work in the Biotechnology Laboratory of the Global Maize Program. Working in the lab, I gained more than just the technical skills necessary to complete my project. I learned to be patient when labeling microtube after microtube and filling well after well in a PCR plate because every step was essential to the overall success of the project. Not everything went smoothly during my first experiences in the lab, but learning from these mishaps helped me to develop my technical skills and continue to advance my project.
The October after my time as a BR intern, I returned to the GYI, this time as a group leader and with the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with students in the same place I was just a year before. Serving as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern fueled my passion for food security research, and helped me to shape my college and career paths. I hope to continue my studies in molecular biology and conduct research that will lead to innovative and sustainable solutions to many aspects of food insecurity, with a focus on plant genomics or biotechnology. I am incredibly grateful that the opportunities that the World Food Prize Foundation has provided me to discuss with, learn from, and work alongside experts, and I aspire to continue working with fellow hunger-fighters to provide safe and sufficient food supplies for our ever-growing population.
We are so proud of you Akriti, and all of the incredible work you are doing to end hunger and fulfill Norm's legacy!
Keegan Kautzky | email@example.com | 02/19/2018 12:25 PM