NPC Awards Academic Scholarship

Published online: Aug 25, 2017 Articles
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The National Potato Council (NPC) announces that Adrienne Gorny, a fourth-year doctoral student in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology at Cornell University, is the recipient of the 2017-18 NPC academic scholarship. The $10,000 award is provided annually to a graduate student with a strong interest in research that can directly benefit the potato industry.

Gorny’s work focuses on the quantitative epidemiology of Northern root-knot and lesion nematodes in potatoes. Her work involves frequent collaboration with New York-based potato growers for on-farm trials, and her research is squarely focused on helping the potato industry make informed decisions about nematode control measures.

“Growers have the most insight into the problems they face,” says Gorny. “They provide me with research ideas, and I do experiments to test those ideas.”

Gorny wants to quantify yield loss due to nematodes by measuring pre-plant density of the nematode population.

“What’s really cool is that I’m measuring the DNA of nematodes in the soil, extracting DNA from soil and measuring bar code regions,” she says. “It is faster than the traditional method and potentially more accurate.”

Ultimately, Gorny plans to create a pre-planting soil test so that growers whose soil is above threshold for the nematodes can take action early and those below the threshold could save money by not taking unnecessary action.

“Her unique project achievements for the U.S. potato industry will leave her ideally positioned to impact scientific research and support the profitability and productivity of the industry far into the foreseeable future,” says Sarah Pethybridge, the supervisor for Gorny’s graduate studies. In addition to her research, Gorny “goes over and above” in her engagement with the community and the campus.  “I anticipate a long, groundbreaking career for Adrienne,” Pethybridge wrote in a recommendation.

“This scholarship will ensure I have the necessary resources to complete each component of my multifaceted Ph.D. project, focusing on predicting yield loss due to root-knot and lesion nematodes by measuring DNA from these pathogens in the soil prior to planting,” says Gorny. “This generous award will also provide funding to continue presenting my findings at national and regional conferences, enhancing my training as a well-rounded scientist. I am very thankful and humbled that NPC believes this research and my future career will aid the U.S. potato industry.”

Gorny is originally from Canton, Mich., and has always loved being outside and gardening. She studied botany at Purdue University for her undergraduate degree. She is the first in her family to do scientific research. At Cornell, she served as vice president of the Student Association of the Geneva Experiment Station last year. After completing her doctoral program, she hopes to find a position at a university with a research/extension component or to work for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.