Students Pursuing Post-Baccalaureate Degrees
When Cal Poly’s agricultural and environmental plant sciences students graduate, they are poised to pursue fulfilling careers in the agriculture and horticulture industries here and abroad. Some, however, become inspired to further their education and pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in a variety of agriculturally related disciplines.
A few of the students who have enrolled, or are about to enroll, in a post-baccalaureate degree program are highlighted below.
Ryan Perry (Environmental Horticultural Sciences, ’08) was accepted into the entomology graduate program at the UC Riverside in 2013 and successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in fall 2020.
Perry’s research involved the classification of a group of parasitic hymenopteran wasps in the genus Zagrammosoma, a group important in biologically controlling insect pests of agricultural crops. These parasitic wasps are tiny -- no taller than the edge of a credit card -- but quite colorful with contrasting light and dark patterns, which prompted Perry to designate their official common name be the Tattooed Wasps. He recently published his work in a 108-page monograph titled “Read between the lineata: A revision of the tattooed wasps, Zagrammosoma Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae), with descriptions of 11 new species.” Perry was also inspired to name one of those new species in honor of a professor in the department who sparked his interest in entomology: Professor David Headrick. The new species is called Zagrammosoma headricki (pictured below).
Perry will be back at Cal Poly this fall teaching the People, Pests and Plagues class, an introductory general education course that is open to all students across campus. We are excited to welcome him back in a new role.
Jeannette Rapicavoli (Environmental Horticultural Science, ‘11) earned a doctorate in plant pathology from UC Riverside in 2016.
She is currently a research and development scientist with Syngenta Crop Protection. “Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy has been essential to my personal and professional development over the past 10 years, and it continues to play a critical role in my career,” Rapicavoli said. She further explained that the breadth of knowledge and skills that she acquired during her time as an undergraduate, in addition to the support and encouragement she received from the Horticulture and Crop Science Department faculty mentors, gave her the confidence to apply to graduate school. She said she often reflected on her Cal Poly experiences during graduate school, particularly because she was in an environment where these applied, practical skills in horticulture were extremely valuable. “I was one of the only students in the program who had hands-on experience with crop cultivation and management,” she said. Her education provided her with the flexibility to diversify as a scientist, gaining experience in both applied and fundamental research in the field of plant pathology. That gave her a distinct advantage when seeking employment after graduate school. She said that her Cal Poly credentials were often a highlight with potential employers, and they continue to be relevant in her current position. “I sincerely believe that I would not be successful in this role without my strong Cal Poly foundation and the tools it gave me to be an effective problem-solver,” Rapicavoli said. She is proud to be an example of Learn by Doing and hopes to continue sharing this philosophy in her work to provide tangible solutions for important diseases and pests affecting commercial agriculture.
Two recent graduates of the department have been accepted into doctoral programs.
Zoe Jensen (Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences, ’20) will attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. After being accepted into the doctoral program there, she applied for -- and won -- the prestigious National Science Foundation BRIDGES Fellowship, a program in ecosystem genomics that trains students across the “genes-to-ecosystem” scale. It comes with free tuition, funds for mandatory fees, and a significant stipend. She’ll be working in Professor Luciano Matzkin’s lab on the genetics involved in the evolution of resistance to Bt crops in pests like corn ear worm. “I am thankful for my teachers believing in me and encouraging me that I would get into a graduate program. Applying was very stressful,” Jensen said.
Savana Becarra (Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences, ’21) is a first-generation college student who was accepted into the entomology doctoral program at UC Riverside. She said she is “honored to continue the legacy of agriculture in her family” that originally hails from Zacatecas, Mexico. Becarra concentrated in fruit and crop science and also took advanced courses in plant pathology and entomology. She was prompted to apply to graduate school after developing an interest in her undergraduate course, speaking with and being encouraged by her professors, and by working at the Cal Poly Strawberry Center. She will be working with Professor Kerry Mauck in optimizing immunity priming approaches against bacterial pathogens transmitted by insect vectors.
We wish all of our students pursuing graduate degrees the best and when you get a moment, contact us and let us know how you are doing!
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