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Fellowship Opportunities

Plant Breeding for Improved Water Productivity

A graduate training program at Colorado State University funded by USDA-NIFA's National Needs Graduate Student Fellowship Program.

Water scarcity is among the most pressing contemporary issues for sustainability of both rainfed and irrigated agriculture. Improvements in crop stress tolerance via breeding and optimization of genotype, management, and environment interactions are needed for continued increases in food production. Therefore, the goal of this program is to train future leaders in improving crops for water productivity, i.e., crop productivity under water-limited conditions, which are predicted to become more frequent in many parts of the world.

We are now soliciting applications for one M.S.-level fellowships beginning in summer or fall of 2015. Colorado State University has established programs in crop breeding and genetics in moisture-stressed environments, plant molecular biology, stress physiology, crop management, limited-irrigation technology, and other aspects of water science. The Fellow will participate in interdisciplinary course work, a mentored research project with one of the affiliated faculty listed below, and experiential learning customized to the Fellow's career goals. Experiential learning opportunities include internships with private sector research programs and international agricultural research institutions.

The M.S. Fellow will receive a stipend of $22,000/year for two years. Tuition expenses will be covered by the program. Only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for the fellowship.

Affiliated Faculty

Prospective students are encouraged to communicate with potential faculty advisors about research interests related to this program.

Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management

USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Core Competencies to be attained by Fellows and means of achieving them.

Core Competency Means of Achievement
Broad knowledge of national and global water scarcity issues and potential solutions Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminar; international research experience
A solid understanding of Mendelian, quantitative, and molecular genetics Academic coursework; teaching experience; research project
Knowledge of traditional plant breeding theory and methods Academic coursework; teaching experience; research project
A thorough grasp of opportunities for integrating new molecular and phenotypic technologies in plant breeding programs Academic coursework; research project; industry practicum
Ability to design, implement, and analyze statistically sound research studies Academic coursework; research project; international research experience
In-depth understanding of crop stress physiology, especially related to water stress Academic coursework;research project; international research experience
Ability to communicate with scientists, students, crop producers, and policy makers about methods for improving crop water productivity. Scientific writing course; seminar presentations; teaching experience; international research experience; industry practicum

Core courses for Master's and Ph.D. Fellows

Course Number Course Name Credits M.S. Ph.D.
BSPM/SOCR 530 Scientific Writing 1 X X
BSPM 540 Understanding Genomes 3 X X
GRAD 592 Interdisciplinary Water Resources Seminar 1 X X
SOCR 430 Applications of Plant Biotechnology 3 X1  
SOCR 460 Introductory Plant Breeding 3 X1  
SOCR 570 Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance 3 X X
SOCR 650 Research Proposal Development 1 X X
SOCR 720 Advanced Plant Breeding 4 X X
SOCR 725 Quantitative Inheritance in Plant Breeding 3   X
SOCR 730 Topics in Plant Breeding and Genetics 1 X X
SOCR 740 Plant Molecular Genetics 3   X
HORT 571 Soil-Plant-Water Relations 3 X  
HORT 576 Environmental Plant Stress Physiology 3   X
STAT 511 Design and Data Analysis for Researchers I 4 X X
STAT 512 Design and Data Analysis for Researchers II 4   X

1: This course or its equivalent may have been completed by the student prior to entering the program.

Industry Practicum

Each Fellow will participate in a short term internship with an industry partner that matches their program and interests. This experience has the goal of raising awareness of the objectives, methods, and working environment of a private sector plan breeding organization. Three plant breeding companies (Busch Agricultural Resources, Cargill Specialty Seeds and Oils, and Dupont Pioneer) have indicated their interest in hosting one of the Fellows.

International Research Experience

The USDA grant includes funding for each Fellow to spend approximately 3 months conducting research with an international partner. The objectives of this overseas experience are (1) to broaden the students' awareness of international agricultural research by collaborating with foreign colleagues; (2) to expose the students to research techniques and approaches beyond what they have access to at CSU; and (3) to obtain research results that are relevant to their thesis/dissertation and the host institutions' objectives. Scientists at the following institutions have agreed to host Fellows:


Prospective students should apply to one of the two participating departments; see below for links. The deadline for applications for full consideration is March 1, 2014. Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled.

Soil and Crop Sciences

Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management

Selection criteria

Fellows will be selected based on demonstrated academic achievements, personal statement of motivation and career goals, letters of recommendation, and previous involvement with research or relevant work experience.

Colorado State University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action employer fully committed to achieving a diverse workforce.