Tanzanian native Emmanuel Mgonja is working on his PhD in Plant Pathology, which is focused on helping curb the effects of rice blast, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, which has been know to cause up to a 70% yield loss among farmers in East Africa. In addition, rice is a major staple crop in the diet of most East Africans, creating significant food insecurity in areas that are most affected. Emmanuel used his Fall 2015 Borlaug LEAP fellowship to continue his research in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. He will be working to characterize and map the genes of certain strains of the fungus, in the hopes of creating more resistant rice varieties that will help meet the needs of both farmers and consumers alike. Emmanuel has already worked and studied in Japan, a huge rice producer, and is looking forward to continuing his work in the US with the highly-regarded Plant Pathology department at Ohio State. He is also hoping to refine his leadership skills by learning from others in his field and working in collaboration with other plant pathologists.
While attending Ohio State University, Emmanuel worked with his graduate advisor and mentor, Dr. Guo-Liang Wang. Dr. Wang is a Plant Pathologist with extensive experience in the molecular analysis of disease resistance in rice. He has and will continue to guide Emmanuel in his gene-mapping research in the lab. Emmanuel also worked with his CGIAR mentor, Dr. Drissa Silue, currently at AfricaRice in Benin. Dr. Silue has worked in Europe and Africa on gene mapping, disease resistance, and gene modifications in rice. He provided Emmanuel with valuable insight into the hands-on work needed to complete his research. Emmanuel plans to complete his PhD by the end of 2016.