WIT Mentor Winners

Silvia German

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2017
Organization: INIA
Country: Uruguay

Ron DePauw

Ron DePauw

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2016
Organization: AAFC
Country: Canada

DePauw is a research scientist in Wheat Breeding at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. His distinguished career has produced over 200 scientific manuscripts, 50 cultivars developed and culminated with election to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2015.  He has served as mentor to many female researchers, including three Women in Triticum Early Career Awardees, Arti Singh (2013), Samia Berraies (2013), and Silvia Barcellos Rosa (2011). Dr. Berraies said “His progressive and encouraging attitude influenced greatly the trajectory of my research work and reminded me of the true reason behind wheat research. With the cereal group. Dr. Ron's attitude towards the technical staff is gender-unbiased both in and out of the field, and he strives to deliver as much information as possible to his staff. He accomplishes that not by saying many words but simply by treating everyone the same, assigning the same tasks to women and men and generally expecting great work.”

DePauw donated the $3,000 cash prize to FINCA International, an organization dedicated to providing women with microloans. FINCA International provides subsidiaries to over one and half million people in 23 countries across Africa, Eurasia, the Middle East and South Asia, and Latin America.


Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2015
Organization: Washington State University
Country: United States

Michael Pumphrey, an associate professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Washington State University, embraces the BGRI mission to improve rural livelihoods through sustainable and secure global wheat production, with gender equity in agricultural careers.  Michael is a mentor and major advisor or post-doctoral advisor to three WIT Early Career Award winners, Esraa Alwan (2010), Yukiko Narouka (2012), and Kaori Ando (2013), as well as many other past and present female undergraduate students, graduate students, visiting scientists, and colleagues.  His current lab group includes young scientists from eight countries, spanning from East Africa through Southeast Asia.  Michael believes in empowering young scientists with the knowledge and tools to make meaningful, globally significant, contributions in their research and applied breeding efforts with strong collaboration skills. 

His program works regularly with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and has contributed to practical training in applied field breeding, Ethiopian germplasm characterization, and staff training.  His research on rust resistance genetics has resulted in the discovery of several new sources of resistance to stem and stripe rust, and he has contributed to the release of 12 wheat varieties and genetic stocks to date. 

Michael's WIT mentor award funds are being donated to the "Dr. Virginia Lee Change the World Fellowship" at Washington State University.  This fund was created in 2011 in honor of his first graduate student at WSU who died from a rare and aggressive cancer in 2010, and supports female PhD students in their pursuit of Virginia’s fundamental interests in integrative, equitable and sustainable food systems through advances in plant sciences.                        


Arun Joshi (right) with Norman Borlaug in 2006

Arun Joshi

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2014
Organization: CIMMYT
Country: Nepal

Arun Joshi, India, is a principal scientist and the South-Asia Regional Coordinator for CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program in Kathmandu, Nepal. Joshi is also a professor of genetics and plant breeding at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. Joshi mentored 2014 WIT winner Chhavi Tiwari as well as many women students and colleagues working in Triticum. His colleague at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Sarala Sharma, said, “The visionary leadership of Dr. Joshi has enhanced collaboration of the Nepal wheat team with international partners. He fully understands the significance of feminization of agriculture in Nepal and showed very positive attitude in supporting women farmers, scientists and students.”  Joshi has made numerous contributions to wheat improvement research by facilitating development of around three dozen rust resistant wheat varieties. He has identified genes/QTLs for wheat rusts, spot blotch, stay green traits, and heat and drought tolerance. His research findings are published in 111 refereed journal articles; 8 books, book chapters, and reviews, and 65 symposia proceedings. He holds one patent. Joshi has trained three dozen Masters and PhD students in his career, twelve of whom are women. Many of these students occupy important positions in national and international agriculture networks.


Yue Jin

Yue Jin

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2013
Organization: USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory
Country: United States

Yue Jin, from the U.S., excels in both the realms of research and training. He has worked extensively to promote gender parity in agriculture by actively engaging in training women and men within regions where tremendous barriers to gender equity exist in science.  Yue Jin served as a mentor to 2010 Jeanie WIT award winner, Maricelis Acevedo, now a junior faculty member at North Dakota State University, and he hired plant pathologist Maria Newcombe, a 2012 WIT award winner, to join the USDA-Cereal Disease Lab in St. Paul Minnesota. Dr. Jin realized early on that a worldwide cooperative effort was needed to effectively respond to the Ug99 crisis. He developed close ties to Dr. Ruth Wanyera at KARI, Njoro Kenya, bringing her to the CDL to learn race identification and handling techniques. According to Martin Carson, retired research leader at the CDL, “Regardless of gender, race, or nationality, Dr. Jin works with whom ever is willing to get the job done. Yue Jin is truly a hardworking, humble man who only seeks to help others with his expertise. He has set high standards for those he has mentored, but none higher than those he has set for himself.”


Francis Ogbonnaya

Francis Ogbonnaya

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2012
Organization: GRDC
Country: Australia

Francis Chuks Ogbonnaya, from Nigeria, is recognized by the BGRI for his support of women in agriculture. He “believes that women have a greater role to play in the world through their contribution with men in agricultural field… achieved through educating women and giving them all the tools necessary” said Ms. Awatif A. Faragalla in her nominating letter for Francis. He joined the Grain Research and Development Corporation, Canberra, Australia in 2012 as manager for protection traits. His background is in plant breeding, genetics and molecular biology with major interest in the use of genetic resources for improving biotic and abiotic stresses limiting crop production. He obtained a degree in crop science from the University of Nigeria, and his PhD in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Melbourne. Francis used his WIT Mentor Award to create a fund to provide on-going scholarships for orphaned female undergraduates to complete their studies, and is initially targeting Nigeria for this work.


Lesley Boyd

Lesley Boyd

WIT Mentor Award Year: 2011
Organization: National Institute of Agricultural Botany
Country: United Kingdom

Lesley Boyd is recognized by the BGRI for the support she gives to young female researchers in cereal sciences. As a scientist, she is passionate about her own research and instinctively supports the research and passion for science in others, female and male, young and more mature. “Passions should be nurtured, not trampled,” says Lesley. Currently, Lesley is research group leader and cereal rust pathologist at the John Innes Centre (JIC), in Norwich, UK, where she investigates the genetics and modes of action of resistance in wheat to fungal diseases that include yellow rust, stem rust and blast of wheat. Her work covers both aspects of classical genetics of durable forms of disease resistance in wheat, as well as molecular and cellular dissection of the mechanisms behind resistance, including non-host resistance.