A Summer to Remember: An Interview with Borlaug-Ruan International Intern Sweta Sudhir

From foodtank.com, by Arianna King
A Summer to Remember: An Interview with Borlaug-Ruan International Intern Sweta Sudhir

In the summer of 2015, Sweta Sudhir, a high school student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is traveling to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the city of Ankara, Turkey as a participant in the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship.  Sudhir connected to the internship opportunity after participating in the World Food Prize’s Global Youth Institute, where Sudhir had the opportunity to meet peers, mentors, and educators and discover a true passion for making a difference with agricultural related laboratory science. Food Tank spoke with Sweta Sudhir to find out more about the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship and how she hopes to improve the lives of farmers and fight hunger through agricultural research. 

Food Tank (FT): How did your participation in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute inspire your commitment to improve the lives of farmers and to fight hunger across the globe through agriculture?

Sweta Sudhir (SS): I began my journey with the World Food Prize organization by writing a paper about water scarcity in India. Going into this, I had a very narrow view about the issue of food insecurity and the factors that effect it. I was under the impression that food insecurity mainly affected sub-Saharan African countries and was primarily due to a lack of fertile farmland. Through the research required to write the paper, I learned of at least 20 complex factor that affect food insecurity, including women's empowerment, education, sanity, and water scarcity. I was further introduced to the complexity of the issue when listening to Jo Luck at the Iowa Youth Institute and several other keynote speakers at the Global Youth Institute (GYI). It was this awareness of the issue that inspired me to commit to improve the lives of farmers and to fight hunger through agriculture across the globe. In packaging meals at the GYI, I learned that I could make a small difference. Later when I found out about the internship opportunity, I became more excited and determined to aid this cause!

FT: What are you most looking forward to as you embark on the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Ankara, Turkey?

SS: I can't wait to embark on a journey of research to improve food insecurity. My passion for the field of science began at a young age when I curiously asked my parents why, continuously. Later this interest was nourished through competitions like First Lego League, Future Cities, and the Brain Bee. Last summer I began working at the Tootle Lab, which is part of the Cellular and Molecular Biology division of the Carver Medical College at the University of Iowa. This is where I discovered my interest in lab research. Based on my passion and these prior experiences, I am looking forward to doing research with CIMMYT in Turkey. In addition to the research I am also excited that I will get to go abroad and be exposed to a new culture. I recently got the DuoLingo app and started practicing Turkish!

FT: What are you the most anxious about?

SS: I am very anxious about being away from my family and friends for 8 weeks. I have been away from home for short-stretches of time before, but I have always been accompanied by family or I have been close enough to home to comeback whenever I wanted.

Not knowing much about the field of wheat and maize research, I am also a little anxious about my ability contribute at the lab.

FT: How do you intend to share the knowledge and skills you gain this summer in Turkey, with friends and colleagues in Iowa after your return?

SS: While I am in Turkey, I plan to maintain a blog to keep friends and family updated about my experience. After returning I will plan to share my experience with others and I have already scheduled to talk to the human geography class at my school upon my arrival home. In addition to this, I will be writing an extensive paper and presenting my experience at the Global Youth Institute this October. I also will look forward to any opportunities that will inspire my generation to fight food insecurity.

FT: What do you intend to do after you graduate high school? Will you stay involved with agriculture research and advocacy?

SS: After high school, I plan to go to a 4-year college where I will pursue a degree related to science. I am not sure exactly what I want to go into. I am hoping this summer influences my choices in college.

I would like to acknowledge the individuals and organizations who have most influenced me in this process. I am incredibly grateful to Mr. Brad Horton for introducing me to the World Food Prize organization. He helped revise my paper about water scarcity in India, multiple times. Mr. Horton also encouraged me to apply for the Borlaug-Ruan international internship, understanding my passions and how well the internship would suit me. Dr. Tina Tootle has also been instrumental in developing my passion for science and interest in lab research. She has been an amazing mentor!

Lastly, the World Food Prize organization is doing a tremendous job in encouraging today's generation to make a difference in the fight against food insecurity and continuing Dr. Norman Borlaug's legacy. They have introduced students to a variety of opportunities through state youth institutes, the global youth institute, the international internship, and the Carver internship. These initiatives encourage students like me to focus on important issues in the world.

Follow Sweta's Work this Summer on her blog: http://travelwithme98.wordpress.com/