Catching up with 2015 Women in Triticum Early Career Award winner, Shideh Mojerlou.
- What is your current professional position, title, affiliation, responsibilities? How long have you been in this position?
I am currently working as Assistant Professor at Shahrood University of Technology in Iran. I started my career 2 years ago, in September 2015. In my current position I am responsible for teaching different courses (theoretical and practical sections) for the bachelor’s degree in Plant Protection, including Mycology, Plant Disease Management, and Field Crop Diseases.
After a year teaching at the bachelor’s level, I got permission to teach master degree students. Since there is no Master’s degree in plant pathology there, I collaborate as co-supervisor or advisor of related thesis projects.
- Who or what inspired you to work in wheat science and research and why?
I began studying plant protection without any background in Agriculture. In my second year, I became interested in mycology and decided to know more about fungi. During my Master’s degree I learned more about wheat diseases and became acquainted with importance of this crop and its production problems in Iran and in the world. My supervisor also encouraged me to work on wheat to help farmers in my country to combat with diseases. My master’s project was on epidemiological studies of Septoria leaf blotch. In this study, we evaluated appropriate models for prediction of temporal progress of wheat septoriosis, and determined yield reduction. Afterwards, my enthusiasm for wheat diseases and issues increased and I worked on genetics of resistance to stem rust disease in some accession of Iranian wheat landraces as my PhD thesis. During my PhD I spent about 8 months at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia and worked on non-host resistance of barley to wheat stripe rust, which is an ongoing project.
- What effect did the WIT Early Career Award have on your professional development?
I became more familiar with BGRI while I was at CSIRO and received a student scholarship for attending in Plant Breeding Congress in Turkey, 2013. It was a wonderful event for me and was my first attending an international conference. After that, BGRI gave me the opportunity to attend the BGRI workshop in Mexico. Not only did being a WIT awardee help me in my current position at University, but also it made me aware of the importance of the role of women in agriculture, the importance of wheat in the food security of the people in the world, and the need for changes in the agricultural system to coordinate with climate change. As a WIT, I feel that I have a greater responsibility than ever before.
- What are you currently working on, and how does it relate to wheat production and/or food security in your country?
My responsibility at the university is more focused on teaching undergraduate students rather than research. I have not had the chance to collaborate in wheat programs or related projects in my country, but I am eagerly looking forward to getting the opportunity to do so, since it is one of my duties and goals in life
- Which recent scientific discoveries or new technologies do you think will affect wheat production in the next 10-15 years?
Based on my knowledge, by increasing food demand, the major challenges ahead of the agricultural system are water shortage, wheat yield, and food security. There are several possible ways to address the challenge of food security, including avoiding crop loss by maintaining pest and disease resistance and adapting to inevitable climate change. Therefore, techniques that help researchers understand genetics of resistance to pathogens, accelerate genetic gain, and reduce the length of breeding cycle will be helpful in wheat production. Technologies like next generation sequencing (NGS) and genomic selection (GS) methods are good examples.
- If you had access to unlimited funding toward wheat research as it relates to food security and improving life of small scale farmers, how would you invest it?
If I had access to unlimited funding toward wheat research, I’d like to prepare projects on wheat breeding to achieve wheat cultivars which are adapted to biotic /abiotic stresses in each region, along with improved grain quality.
- What advice do you have for other women who are beginning their careers in agricultural science?
In my job, I am in contact with many students that are at the first stage of their professional life. Nowadays in my country the number of female students in most of the agricultural fields is higher than that of boys. I try to show them the importance of agriculture in human life and encourage them to help people as much as they can. Although women always have more challenges due to their responsibilities in their personal life, I tell my students to be strong, make plans for their life and try to reach their goals.