Students Helping Students

Grad Student Minh Le’s Award-Winning Research Included Several Undergraduates

Graduate student Minh Le is grateful to many people for her first-place finish at the American Society for Horticultural Science’s 2020 Master’s Student Poster Competition.
Fruit science Professor Lauren Garner, who served as Le’s graduate advisor, deserves some credit, as well as several undergraduate students who were enlisted to help with the research that served as Le’s master’s thesis: “Improving Sustainable Fertilizer Practices for Pomegranate by Leaf Nutrient Concentration Evaluation and Fertilizer Trials.”

Le’s award-winning research had three objectives: identify the best time to take leaf samples as an indicator of plant nutrient status; determine correlations between leaf nutrient concentrations and yield; and determine appropriate fertilizer application rates to maximize yield and minimize waste.

“In addition to the great job that Minh did working on this project with me and many undergraduate students, she also worked collaboratively with our industry partners and with faculty and staff from multiple departments,” Garner said. “Her organization and professionalism were an essential part of making this large project run smoothly. 

Le’s large-scale thesis project required a great deal of assistance in field work and data collection and entry. 

“My project received funding from two grants that allowed Dr. Garner and I to hire students to help with the project,” Le said. “We were able to recruit eight to 10 undergraduate students for the two-year project. I was able to finish my project, thanks to all the student research assistants, and I am glad that I was able to give them the opportunity to gain some research experience as well. 

As part of their work, the students traveled to commercial orchards across the Central Valley to practice data collection and entry, such as collecting leaf, fruit and soil samples. They worked within lab settings when processing the collected samples for nutrient analysis.

“Minh also developed and executed an additional experiment conducted in the industry-supported pomegranate orchard at Cal Poly’s Crops Unit,” Garner said. “Even students not working on the project benefited from seeing a research project in progress on campus.”

Students working with Le were exposed to more than the rigors of research. 

“Some of the students I worked with were curious to know what it takes to pursue a master’s degree,” Le said. “Working on this project together, I believe, helped them decide if they wanted to earn their own master’s or doctorate in the future. Others used the opportunity to expand their research experience in consideration for their professional career. Either way, I am grateful that I was able to give them the opportunity to gain experience and to realize what their goals and interests are beyond their regular coursework.”

Le came into the master’s program not knowing anyone. “I am thankful that by the end of my degree program, I had a great experience meeting and working with undergraduate and graduate students, as well as most, if not all, of the HCS faculty,” she said. “Throughout my time at Cal Poly, the faculty and staff in the HCS Department has always made  me feel welcomed and has helped me whenever I needed assistance, whether it was finding equipment for field work, filling out administrative documents, or even arranging a workspace for me to host office hours and to write my thesis. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my master’s degree as efficiently as I did.”


Read more stories in the 2020 Newsletter.

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