FNU Academic Undertakes PhD Studies On Chinese Scholarship

Kumar recently received a Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS) to undertake his PhD studies at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. His research will focus on Crop Genetics and Breeding.
13 Sep 2021 11:27
FNU Academic Undertakes PhD Studies On Chinese Scholarship
Ashmit Kumar and Professor Li Xueyong.

Fiji National University (FNU) academic, Ashmit Kumar, is keen to make valuable contributions towards boosting the Fijian agricultural sector and empowering communities after completing his doctoral research degree in China.

Kumar recently received a Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS) to undertake his PhD studies at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. His research will focus on Crop Genetics and Breeding.

An Assistant Lecturer at FNU’s College of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (CAFF), Kumar said his farming background is the driving force behind his academic journey.

“I have always been involved in the agricultural field from my childhood days,” the 27-year-old said.

“I attended Shastri Memorial Primary School and A.D. Patel College in my hometown of Ba.”

“In 2013, I began my tertiary studies at FNU, undertaking a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree. Since then, I knew I wanted to contribute to the industry with advanced agricultural practice.”

“I also realised there was a perception about those in this sector being looked at as simply farmers, and I wanted to change this mindset.”

Kumar began his career at FNU after completing his degree. In 2018, he received a CGS to undergo his Masters degree at the Chinese institution and had decided then on his field of specialisation.

“Crop genetic and breeding is an important topic worldwide and an important component of agriculture,” he explained.

“My Masters research focused on evaluating natural rice population to find rice accessions with higher grain nutrient content such as zinc, iron, selenium and cadmium, which can be further used for breeding purposes in countries like Fiji.”

“Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS), a powerful technique, was used to identify loci and candidate genes responsible for traits such as zinc, iron, selenium, and cadmium.”

“I am working on a biofortification project, which is breeding crops to increase their nutritional value and I am using rice as my crop model. During my PhD, I will continue my research with the same project and carry out further molecular characterisation of identified genes. This could be vital for molecular breeding programmes in the future.”

Kumar said he was grateful to have received his PhD scholarship based on his Master’s performance.

“I am thrilled that I can continue my research as planned,” he said.

“Being the first Fijian to return home with the PhD in Crop Genetics and Breeding would be a significant achievement.”

Reflecting on his studies in China since 2018, Kumar said he faced the usual challenges of studying in a foreign country, such as the language barrier, food and temperature.

“However, I remained focused on my objective and have adapted over time to the country and my studies.”

“For instance, despite having no experience using lab equipment, I can now perform experiments independently and even assist the new students joining our team.”

“I must acknowledge that this was all possible through assistance from my Professor and lab members.”

With COVID-19 disrupting the world by early 2020, Kumar said he was also grateful for those who checked in on him and offered comfort and support.

Ashmit Kumar working in the lab.

Ashmit Kumar working in the lab.

“I am grateful to the CAFF Dean, Professor Paul Iji and the academic staff at Koronivia Campus.”

“My parents, Ashok Kumar and Sunila Devi and my younger brother Ashneet, and the support of my wife, Nividita Chand.”

Mr Kumar said that upon his return to FNU, he hopes to contribute his knowledge to research improvement and policy-making as well as boost the agricultural sector.

Ashmit Kumar and his wife Nividita Chand.

Ashmit Kumar and his wife Nividita Chand.

His Professor, Li Xueyong, said Kumar was a motivated person who had developed an in-depth understanding of the scientific and technical concepts in his field of research.

“He also has a good command of different laboratory techniques related to his research work. Kumar has a conscientious way of research with high motivation and commitment to his task,” Professor Xueyong said.

CAFF Dean, Professor Paul Iji, said Kumar’s research would help Fiji in more ways than improving the nutritional value of crops.

According to Prof Iji, “Fiji needs to develop new crops, which are resilient to climate change, including crops that can withstand flooding and salinity caused by a rise in sea level.”

“Globally, such crops are developed through molecular genetic manipulation and remain safe for human consumption.”

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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