Congratulations to Rishi Masalia, Ph.D. candidate in the department of plant biology, who has been named one of seven K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders for 2018 by the American Association of Colleges and Universities for his commitment to teaching and learning, as well as his involvement in science outreach in the Athens community. Masalia is the fifth UGA student to win the award.
A biologist and bioinformatician by training, his area of expertise is candidate gene identification through genetic mapping and RNA expression techniques using cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) as a model. Hailing from the Arizona desert, Masalia chose to focus his research efforts on understanding the genetic mechanisms governing crop-water relations, specifically identifying candidate genes conveying an increase in drought resistance while minimizing growth or yield penalties.
He serves an ambassador with the American Society of Plant Biologists, and is a co-founder of the Athens Science Café, the Athens Science Observer, UGA SPEAR, and Science Athens. He is a member of the UGA Plant Center.
“Science outreach and education are my passions, and while I enjoy my time teaching at UGA, it’s encouraging to see that the large organizations such as the AACU are recognizing that education can happen both in and outside of the classroom,” Masalia said.
“As a scientist, science communicator, and educator, I believe it’s my responsibility to share knowledge, not only with my scientific colleagues and students, but also the public. To that end, I helped start organizations like the Athens Science Café and Science Observer as a way to share knowledge and facilitate a dialogue with the community.”
“Rishi has gone far beyond the expectations of a typical graduate student with these extra education and outreach activities,” said John Burke professor of Plant biology doctoral advisor to Masalia. “He effectively balances these endeavors alongside his research and teaching commitments. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this award.”
Both the Athens Science Café and Science Observer are managed exclusively by fellow UGA students, who despite all other pressures and commitments, volunteer their time to increase science education and outreach in Athens.
Fantastic recognition for a young researcher with a gift for communication. Congratulations again to Masalia, and to our colleagues in plant biology and the UGA Plant Center.
Image: Photo Rishi Masalia by Jason Thrasher.