Borlaug LEAP Alumni Elfinesh Gebremariam, hopes to serve as a role model for female scientists. Her work as a lecturer and head of the gender office at Dilla University in Ethiopia has given her leadership experience, while her tenure as a production manager at a flower farm emphasized the importance of mutual respect, both for the employees and for the company. Role-modeling, influencing, inspiring others, and respecting the values and expectations of an organization are some of the leadership qualities she appreciates.
Ms. Gebremariam attended Ankara University in Turkey on a scholarship from the Turkish government. Her research focused on identifying aggressive strains of Fusarium (crown rot disease) and screening wheat lines for pathogen resistance. Wheat is the second most widely grown cereal in sub-Saharan Africa and Ethiopia. Soil-borne pathogens limit yields and results in high economic losses for farmers. Ms. Gebremariam has returned to Ethiopia, recently completed her research with a broader focus on soil-borne pathogens in general, and is currently writing her thesis, which she hopes to defend this coming summer.
During her Borlaug LEAP fellowship, Ms. Gebremariam worked with mentors from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and from Washington State University. At CIMMYT--Turkey, she worked under the supervision of Dr. Amer Dababat, leader in the soil-borne pathogens program at CIMMYT. She learned isolation, identification and pathogenicity of the Fusarium species. As part of her fellowship, she traveled to Washington State University for three months to work with Dr. Michael Pumphrey and a team of experts on Dryland Crown Rot disease, including Dr. Timothy Paulitz, US Department of Agriculture. The team continues to work collaboratively with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research and hosts numerous international students in their lab at Washington State. Ms. Gebremariam learned about molecular techniques and methods of evaluation resistance/tolerance during her time at, Washington State University, a world-leader in wheat research. She is currently in Turkey finalizing her thesis and is on track to complete her PhD in Plant Pathology in late 2015.