When Alejandra Heurta announced her intention to go to graduate school to study agricultural science, she surprised her parents, native Mexicans who made their living picking produce near Salinas, California.
“What? You went to college for four years and now you’re going back to the fields?” was their reaction, Huerta recalls with a laugh. “I explained that I’m doing something very different. My job is not to pick. I think about the work I do.”
Huerta, now a second-year Ph.D. student in plant pathology, studies the bacterial plant pathogen Ralstonia, which causes disease in tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco and other valuable crops. In Spring 2010 she was awarded a three-year research fellowship from the National Science Foundation. The coveted honor includes a $30,000 annual stipend and a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance.
Visit the Grow website to read more about Huerta’s story.