A researcher who turned down a career-based position in the Commonwealth Defence Department in Canberra to pursue a PhD in agriculture at The University of Western Australia has won a prestigious fellowship.
Ms Aanandini Ganesalingam's unique talent and interest in mathematical solutions to complex problems in agriculture was recognised recently when she was awarded a UWA Mike Carroll Travelling Fellowship.
Ms Ganesalingam is supported in her PhD work within the UWA Institute of Agriculture and School of Plant Biology through a Bayer South East Asia Research Scholarship and an Australian Postgraduate Award. She will use the Mike Carroll Travelling Fellowship to work with an expert researcher in mathematical modelling for animal and plant-breeding systems, Professor Robin Thompson at Rothamsted Research in England.
Rothamsted is the longest-running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for nearly 170 years. Its mission is to deliver knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality, and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.
Ms Ganesalingam's supervisors, Winthrop Professor Wallace Cowling (Deputy Director of the UWA based International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research) and UWA Adjunct Associate Professor Alison Smith (Principal Research Fellow in the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics at the University of Wollongong and funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation through the national Statistics for the Australian Grains Industry II project) said Ms Ganesalingam's work would have a significant impact on the Australian grains industry.
"Every year, plant-breeding programs test hundreds of potential new crop varieties in multi-environment trials (METs)," Adjunct Associate Professor Smith said. "Recently, the importance of including pedigree information in MET analysis has been recognised and the economic gains to the Australian grains industry from using this method will be substantial. However, a major impediment to its usefulness is the time required for analysis."
Professor Cowling said that in the commercial setting, "the analysis has been developed to the point where we can analyse several years of data but we cannot complete the analysis in time for sowing the next year's crop. More efficient mathematical solutions are needed to solve these complex genetic problems. Professor Thompson has considered this problem and has suggested useful ideas to solve it. The results of Aanandini's visit to Professor Thompson in the UK will ultimately benefit all plant breeding and variety testing groups around Australia."
The Mike Carroll Travelling Fellowship, a memorial to the late Dr Mike Carroll, former Director-General of the WA Department of Agriculture, recognises his devotion to agriculture and selfless efforts to improve the lot of farmers, the wider agricultural community and scientific colleagues.
Dr Carroll's wife, Mrs Helen Carroll, said Fellowship recipients were chosen on their academic abilities, relevance of studies to an important area of Australian broadacre agriculture, their potential to benefit from the experience and their enthusiasm to impart the findings of their travels to the scientific, farming and wider community on their return to WA.