Francis Ogbonnaya's lifelong desire to establish a fund to enable orphaned Nigerian female undergraduates to complete their studies is to be fulfilled.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) staff member has just been announced the recipient of a global grains industry mentoring award that will kick-start the scholarship initiative he has dreamed about.
Dr Ogbonnaya has received the 2012 Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum (WIT) Mentor Award.
This award, first introduced by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) in 2011, recognises people who have excelled in mentoring women who work in scientific fields associated with Triticum and its nearest relatives. (Wheat belongs to the genus Triticum).
Dr Ogbonnaya , who is GRDC's Canberra-based Manager of Protection Traits, receives a cash honorarium of $3000 USD, as well as the honor of organising a session at next year's BGRI technical workshop. He will use the award money to set up a fund to provide on-going scholarship support for orphaned female undergraduates so they can complete their studies in his home country of Nigeria.
"I intend to match dollar for dollar the award prize and contribute $3000 of my personal money to initiate and get this project off the ground," said Mr Ogbonnaya.
Committed to the elimination of world hunger through grains research and development, Dr Ogbonnaya was described as a "very deserving" recipient of the international award by Jeanie Borlaug Laube, the daughter of Nobel Laureate Dr Norman E Borlaug. During the mid-20th century Dr Borlaug led the introduction of high-yielding wheat varieties combined with modern agricultural production to boost food production and security around the globe.
The Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative since October 2009, Ms Borlaug Laube said Dr Ogbonnaya had "proven to be a steadfast champion of the careers of women".
She said any effort to raise the profiles of women working in science would be impossible without the vital contributions of mentors - such as Dr Ogbonnaya - preparing the way forward for their students.
Prior to joining GRDC, Dr Ogbonnaya spent four and half years at The International Centre for Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) at Aleppo in Syria, initially as Principal Research Scientist for wheat germplasm enhancement and subsequently as head of the Biotechnology Unit.
He obtained his first degree in Crop Science from The University of Nigeria and his PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics at University of Melbourne. He has published more than 100 research papers/articles in refereed journals, book chapters and conference proceedings and supervised many postgraduate students.
Dr Ogbonnaya's responsibilities in his role at GRDC include managing several research projects and representing GRDC in the daily operations and management of gene discovery/pre-breeding research projects for biotic stresses across the grains industry, from cereals to pulses and oil seed crops.
He has a major interest in the use of genetic resources for improving biotic and abiotic stresses limiting crop production.
GRDC Managing Director John Harvey commended Dr Ogbonnaya on receipt of the award which acknowledged his devotion to research into improved grains varieties and his effort to encourage students to be involved in that important field.
"GRDC and the broader grains industry in Australia and around the world are indeed fortunate to have people like Francis so committed to fostering education and knowledge in people from all walks of life so they can contribute to the vital cause of feeding the world," Mr Harvey said.
Caption: GRDC's Canberra-based Manager of Protection Traits, Francis Ogbonnaya, receives the 2012 Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum (WIT) Mentor Award from Jeanie Borlaug Laube. Photo courtesy Borlaug Global Rust Initiative.
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Francis Ogbonnaya, GRDC
Phone 02 61664500
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli