UKAg Student Wins Alltech Young Scientist Award

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 6, 2016) Agricultural biotechnology junior Alonna Wright, a native of Morgantown, Kentucky, recently received the Alltech Young Scientist award (AYS).

The AYS program is the world's largest agriscience competition. The program offers the most innovative, scientific thinkers from colleges and universities around the world a chance to compete and be rewarded for their research achievements.

During the regional phase of the competition, with help from one of her mentors, Bruce Webb, professor of virology and molecular genetics in the Department of Entomology, Wright submitted her current research at UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment on nudivirus.

She won the award for the North American region of the AYS program. She then went on to present her research to an international panel of judges where she won the grand prize of $5,000 and a fully funded doctoral fellowship.

Wright works with a genetically selected, mutant form of nudivirus. Nudivirus causes a sexually transmitted disease only found in the corn earworm. In some cases, in nature, the virus infection results in insect sterility. Wright found that 100 percent sterility could help control the reproduction of the corn earworm and help prevent the damages the worm can cause.

Wright's research will help prevent destruction that corn earworms can cause to crops each year. Corn earworms cause nearly $2 billion in damages, including the cost to control them each year.

"We knew this could have an impact on millions of people and many crops. It was elating, I couldn’t be happier," Wright said.

After graduation, Wright is not sure what program she will study to get her doctoral degree but is glad she can focus on choosing something she is passionate about.

"The funding for my PhD will help me focus on choosing a program that I am truly passionate about without having to worry about the money," said Wright. 

A relief for Wright is not having to worry about funding for her education. She is grateful that she was chosen as the AYS winner and is honored to have won such an immense prize.

"Winning a fully funded doctoral degree opportunity has been an amazing feeling, knowing I won't have to worry about where the money for my higher education will come from. It's such an honor to have won this prize." 

Video by Jeff Franklin, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. To view captions for this video, push play and click on the CC icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.  If using a mobile device, click on the "thought bubble" in the same area.

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