This story was originally published by Brandon Hopper
Takshay Patel, a Department of Horticultural Science Ph.D. candidate, embodies NC State’s Think and Do spirit. Venturing from his family and friends, Takshay left his hometown in India to discover purpose as a plant breeder.
With a passion for plant sciences, Takshay became driven to apply research solutions and technology to real-world problems. His current research goals are searching for higher fungal disease resistance, identifying molecular markers associated with resistance and/or combining favorable markers in watermelons.
It is certain Takshay’s experiences at NC State has helped him acquire far more skills than his ability to analyze and think like a researcher. As a future plant breeder and agricultural leader, Takshay aspires to deliver grower solutions that will impact his native homeland and beyond.
Why did you choose CALS?
As an international student with a major in Plant Biotechnology, from India, I joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) for my Master of Science. I was primarily drawn to the diverse research that CALS and the Department of Horticultural Science offers. I have met and interacted with amazing professors who are pioneers in their field. Additionally, NC State’s reputation of being a top agriculture university in the United States helped influence my decision.
What is your career goal? Why did you choose it?
Although not my original plan, I want to be a plant breeder. I began pursuing a career as a science researcher, but found passion in applied sciences and addressing practical challenges. During my undergraduate studies in biotechnology, I became fascinated with plant sciences and their global impact. While pursuing a Master of Science degree, I began working on GMOs, learning plant molecular biology and plant pathology. Although the project was intellectually stimulating for me, the project ended with publications and no real-life applications. That is when I realized that plant breeding is the perfect way to pursue my passion for applying research and technology to real-life problems. This awareness led me to my Ph.D. in plant breeding. As a plant breeder, I look forward to delivering solutions to growers and see my work making an impact. I see myself as a satisfied scientist in the shoes of a plant breeder.
What are you working on? What’s next for you?
Currently, I am working on breeding 1400 different watermelon plant varieties from around the world. My research objectives include finding higher resistance to a fungal watermelon disease, anthracnose; identifying molecular markers for anthracnose resistance, by performing a Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS); combing molecular markers for anthracnose resistance; and watermelon mutation breeding. After graduating in Fall 2018, I look forward to opportunities as an industry plant breeder.
What have you learned that you will take with you when you graduate?
During my course of 6 years here at CALS, the most important thing I have learned is how to think as a researcher. Besides learning many protocols and software packages, I have realized that your ability to think as a researcher is very critical. To think, work hard and have patience are the skills I will take with me when I graduate.
Tell me about an experience outside the classroom.
Graduate school is all about experiences besides classrooms. There have been many incidences that positively impacted me. I had always worked by myself until I began earning my Master of Science degree. This allowed opportunities to both plan and work on my projects. My Ph.D. project was too big to achieve by myself, so my advisor provided assistance in the form of undergraduate students. While working with undergraduate students, I learned several important leadership traits. As a future leader, my experience has taught me just how important trust is professionally and the ability to rely on others around you.