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Student’s applied mycology research benefits farmers and consumers

“Being in the heart of the Congo Basin, I came to understand forestry’s importance to us as a country and was curious to do studies in that area,” shared Blaise Jumbam, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology.

Jumbam had long been interested in biology, but family members in his hometown of Bamenda, Cameroon urged him to pursue banking. Jumbam gave finance a try, studying at the University of Dschang, but switched to botany at the University of Buea.  

After Jumbam completed his undergraduate studies, he joined a research project involving tropical forests and taught high school biology.  He then returned to the University of Buea where he earned a master’s degree as the top graduate in his class. Jumbam said the accomplishments convinced his family he made the right decision. 

While working as an assistant researcher on forest soils and botanical collections at the Institute of Research and Agriculture Development in Cameroon, Jumbam met Cathie Aime, professor of mycology and director of the Purdue Herbaria.

“It was a golden opportunity,” said Jumbam. “We don’t have the infrastructure in Cameroon to do quality research and it was always at the top of my mind to find contacts abroad.”

Jumbam joined Aime’s lab in May 2018. Jumbam said he appreciates Aime’s confidence in her graduate students, the welcoming atmosphere and the diversity of her lab. “We have people from almost every continent,” he noted. 

In the lab, Jumam conducted research in applied mycology, exploring fungal biocontrol of cyst nematodes.

“I am looking at fungi candidates that we can use to control potato and soybean nematodes in the U.S.,” Jumbam explained. “These biological controls are alternatives to fungicides that have been banned. 

“The pests are a big problem, affecting the lives of many people from the farmer to the consumer. My motivation is to find a solution against this pest so we all have communities where we have enough food.”

Jumbam plans to graduate in 2022. “My plan is to head back home and share my experiences with others who may want to go to graduate school, so they can know where to go to get a quality education.”

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