Q & A with Shams
Why did you choose Agronomy’s Graduate Program at Purdue?
• Purdue University is known for a large and diverse student body and it has a higher number of international students and higher diverse ethnic groups. Additionally, Purdue University offers a wide variety of courses. Therefore, I wanted to exposed to both wide variety of students and subjects.
• Purdue University consistently kept its reputation among the high-ranking universities and it is well regarded in the U.S. and abroad. Purdue is the home of astronauts, world food and noble prize winners. It is a place of opportunity and growth. Purdue has a strong and well-defined academic reputation and provides high quality education. Therefore, most of the Purdue graduates (~90%) finding jobs within six months of their graduation.
• Students Clubs and Organizations: At Purdue University there are over 1000 registered student clubs and organizations. These clubs and organizations are created and led by students. Being involved in these organizations and clubs, provide leadership and network building opportunities.
• Study Abroad Opportunity: Purdue College of Agriculture alone offers more than 400 study abroad programs. The study abroad programs provide numerous opportunities such as exploring and learning about new places, expanding network and employment opportunities, and learning/improving foreign language(s).
Briefly describe your research.
During my graduate program, I was holding an RA (Research Assistant) position. My research was focusing on predicting soil spatial variability that impact plant performance. I was particularly interested to map soil variability that influence plant phenotypic characteristics at the field. Because due to the soil variability the same genotype is likely to express slightly different phenotypic characteristics at different parts of the same field. For successful completion of my research projects, I designed the research projects, collected soil samples and soil data, and acquired other relevant data such as aerial imagery and lidar digital elevation data. This was an invaluable experience, I have worked closely with my academic committee members on my research projects. I have presented my work at various meetings and conferences. The outcome of my research is currently being utilized by various scientists for designing their experiments, adjusting seeding, fertilizers, and other crop inputs rates, and analyzing field phenotyping experiments. The generated maps can also be used for soil and plant sampling.
Briefly describe your experience with international research.
During my MS program, my research was mainly focused on estimating and mapping Afghan soil spatial variability. Afghanistan is a country where data availability is limited. However, I successfully managed, to create initial digital soil property map for Afghanistan. This map is currently being used by MAIL (Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock) for research and outreach programs. Additionally, the generated maps are used in Afghan institutions for teaching purposes.
What are your career goals?
I like the University environment; therefore, I would like to work in academia. Teaching, mentoring, and interacting with students is a great passion of mine.
How have your interactions been with faculty and staff?
As an International student, I have never felt that I was in a different place. Because, at Purdue Agronomy both faculty and staff are working closely to improve students’ well-being. They are kind, cooperative, and respectful. Therefore, the relations build during these interactions and collaboration extend beyond the student graduation from the department. I have a great advisor and a wonderful graduate committee, which always helped me to overcome challenges and reached my goals.
What are the strengths of the Graduate Program in Agronomy?
• Opportunities for personal growth – You can improve your research, teaching, extension/outreach skills.
• Access to cutting edge technology – Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Supercomputer/Cluster computers, remodeled facilities.
• Availability of numerous scholarships, fellowships, awards, and grants.
• Well-designed courses with both indoor and outdoor Labs.
• Outstanding faculty/academic advisors.
What has been your greatest accomplishment while at Purdue?
Getting my MS and PhD degrees from Purdue itself is a big accomplishment. During my MS studies, I have generated the first digital soil property map for Afghanistan. Furthermore, my PhD research itself is a big accomplishment; I worked on three different projects (mapping drain tile lines, mapping soil OM and CEC, and finally map natural soil drainage classes). These generated maps are used by various research scientists conducting researches at Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE).
Beside my graduate studies, I successfully completed other short-term programs/trainings such as the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security, the Mini-MBA or the Applied Management Principles program of the Krannert School of Management, achieved the Purdue University Graduate Teaching Certificate, and Precision Agriculture Program to name a few. I also achieved various awards for my posters and oral presentations. Additionally, I have received several scholarships and outstanding teaching award. I had the honor of being teaching assistant (TA) with world-class professors in their well-structured courses. I learned from them and I had a wonderful time them and students.
In my current role, my biggest accomplishment is running successfully the AGRY/NRES 255/270 course during the COVID 19 pandemic. I was successfully and timely export and design the AGRY/NRES 255/270 course from Blackboard to Brightspace management during COVID19 pandemic.
What advice would you give an incoming grad student?
• Be proud of yourself, you are a student of a world-class university. You have already proven that you are among the top. Graduate school can be difficult, but you are not the only one going through this hardship. So, do not think that you are not smart. Instead, keep on your hard working.
• Your relationship with your advisor and committee members is a key element of the graduate school and your success. Therefore, establish and keep a good rapport with your professor and academic committee. Make sure to meet with them at least once a semester and share the progress of your project(s).
• Connect with other graduate students and communicate with the senior graduates for their experience or opinion on a particular academic issue (i.e. taking/registering for a specific course). Your classmate might go under the same experiences therefore, you can overcome the challenges together.
• Be involved in extracurricular activities. For instance, join the Agronomy Grad Rep/Agronomy Graduate Student Organization groups, participate in other scientific and social organizations.
• At Purdue Agronomy, you have the opportunity to increase your skills not only in research field but in teaching and outreach/extension fields as well. So, make sure to get the test of these experience. If you would like to TA and you have not taken the course before, no worries, most of the Agronomy courses are well structured and you will be a successful TA. Additionally, you will get support from the course professor and you will never be lost.
• Apply for scholarships, fellowships, and internship. At Purdue, you also have greater opportunity for applying to numerous scholarships, fellowships, and internships. So, do not miss these opportunities and plan ahead.
• Attend and present your work at scientific meetings. This will be beneficial for expanding your academic network and getting new insight about your project(s) from the experts.
• Take maximum advantage from Purdue CoRec Sports Center.