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The Science in Our Food
There will be another Norman Borlaug. In fact, if the late Cresco native and Nobel Peace Prize-winning plant scientist sees a fraction of his dreams come true, there will be many future Borlaugs.
Borlaug will be honored with the dedication of his statue today in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. When he created the World Food Prize to honor agriculture science advancements that combat hunger worldwide, part of his motivation was to help nurture the next generation that will take on the daunting challenge of figuring out how to feed the world’s growing population.
To that end, the World Food Prize Foundation sponsors a series of youth-focused programs such as the Borlaug-Ruan International Internships, which send high school students to work in research centers around the world.
About 20 young Iowans were invited to today’s dedication ceremonies because they represent the kinds of next-generation leaders who will shape science, policy, discourse and humanitarianism in the years to come.
Here’s a quick look at five of them, all participants in a variety of programs founded by Borlaug, who died in 2009. They’ve already led lives of great accomplishment in such a short span.
Prepare to be humbled.
Staffers at the World Food Prize sometimes refer to Riesselman as having the greatest potential to be the next Borlaug.
The Drake University senior studying biochemistry grew up in Crawford County. He was entranced by both the small- and large-scale agriculture on his family farm.
“We always planted a garden,” Riesselman said. “So I got this feel of the food on the table and the larger production in the farm as a whole. It really drove the power of science home to me, how all of these things were possible by us using science to produce higher-yielding seeds.”
While at A-H-S-T High School in Avoca, Riesselman led a native prairie reconstruction project on 17,000 square feet of the school’s grounds. He traveled across Iowa to harvest seeds from prairie plants and wrote grants for the project.
Riesselman attended the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, a gathering of more than 100 high school students nationwide who meet with World Food Prize laureates to discuss agricultural science and global hunger issues.
He was selected as a 2010 Borlaug-Ruan Intern. He served at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in El Batan, Mexico, the same research center where Borlaug made his scientific breakthroughs in breeding wheat.
“I was in a completely different country, but when I was in the fields, it felt very natural and familiar to me,” Riesselman said. “If I had any doubt that this is what I wanted to do, this was the experience that convinced me.”
Riesselman is focusing on bioinformatics, which uses computer science to advance agricultural science. In a simplified form, the field helps ag scientists sort through millions of genetic pairings and seed possibilities to identify the handful of traits that might be advantageous for future breeding.
He has been an intern for DuPont Pioneer and at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. Upon graduation from Drake this spring, he’s bound for Harvard University to further his bioinformatics studies.
“The goal is to make the best possible contribution to science,” he said.
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| impacteducationinternnorman borlaugAdam Riesselman