UW Graduate Student Judith Odhiambo Wins Schlumberger Foundation Grant

July 25, 2012
Woman smiling
Judith Odhiambo

University of Wyoming graduate student Judith Odhiambo has won a 2012 Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship grant of up to $50,000 per year to continue her Ph.D. studies in conservation agriculture practices.

“This was the happiest moment in my life,” Odhiambo says. “I was so excited and felt honored by this award, which provides me with (a) great opportunity to invest in my career development.”

Odhiambo was among 63 out of more than 600 applicants to receive the grant, which funds women from 28 developing and emerging countries for advanced graduate studies in science and engineering disciplines at top universities worldwide, according to the Schlumberger Foundation.

“This is a great opportunity for UW to host one of the awardees,” says Urszula Norton, UW assistant professor of agroecology in the Department of Plant Sciences. “The Faculty for the Future empowers women from developing countries to obtain their education and expertise, and bring it back to their home countries.”

Odhiambo attained an undergraduate degree in agricultural education and extension at Kenya’s Egerton University in 2004 and then earned a master’s in agronomy at Egerton in 2009. She arrived at UW in spring 2011.

“I did not know the University of Wyoming at first but, in one of my Internet searches for possible sources of scholarships, I came across an ad that the university was looking for a dedicated student to carry out research in East Africa for a Ph.D. degree,” Odhiambo says. “I did apply and got the chance. I have found the University of Wyoming to be conducive for learning with good staff ready to mentor one to greater heights.”

Norton, Odhiambo and Jay Norton, UW associate professor in ecosystem science and management, returned to UW in June from a trip to Kenya and Uganda, where they conducted research with local farmers and assessed the importance of conservation agriculture practices on long-term sustainability of food production in sub-Saharan Africa.

“One of the main goals was to test the adaptability and acceptance of a variety of low-intensity tillage practices in conjunction with using legumes as cover and relay crops,” Urszula Norton says. “We assessed the effect of these practices on soil fertility renewal and improved crop production.”

Odhiambo assessed the impact that the transition to these practices has on greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, which are climate-changing gases produced in response to soil management, according to Norton.

“She also evaluated a variety of other agronomic aspects of maize and beans production, such as crop performance, weed population and field residue decomposition,” Norton says.

After completing her graduate studies at UW, Odhiambo says she plans to return to Kenya to teach, mentor and continue her research.

“I have been promised a teaching position at one of our local universities, Egerton University,” she says.

More information about the Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship is available at http://www.facultyforthefuture.net/.

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