Student travels to Washington to share passion for international agriculture

Kelly Jedrzejewski
July 23, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Sulav Paudel, a doctoral candidate in entomology and in international agriculture and development in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to participate in two conferences aimed at advancing international agriculture and rural development.

Paudel, who is originally from Nepal, completed his master’s degree at Penn State in 2013. He said several factors brought him to Penn State, but it all started with a coincidence.

After completing his undergraduate degree in Nepal, Paudel worked for The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, a program funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by Virginia Tech University with collaboration from several universities including Penn State.

One of the program’s coordinators is Edwin Rajotte, professor of entomology at Penn State. “He travels to Nepal every year to monitor the program and I met him during one of these trips in 2010,” Paudel said. “I was interested in the work he was doing, and I got to learn more about Penn State through working with him. I realized that he was someone I wanted to work with, and Penn State was a university that I could see myself being part of.”

His areas of study focus on climate change and insect-plant interactions, integrated pest management, global food security and international development. The international agriculture and development dual-title degree program provides students with international perspectives and expertise to strengthen their primary graduate degree.

His research has taken him far and wide; he has traveled to about 20 countries including Russia, Brazil, Israel, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Costa Rica and Great Britain.   

Paudel’s doctoral thesis focuses on the effect of global warming on crop losses from pests. His interest in this topic stems from his time working with the USAID program.

“During our initial interactions with farmers, they told us that one of the biggest challenges they face was the growing incidence of insects in their crops, which came as something of a surprise,” he said. “We thought floods, droughts or even market problems would be the bigger issues. Because of my background in entomology and international development, the subject of insects’ impact on crops really caught my attention.”

In June, Paudel attended two events in Washington, D.C. The first was as a Future Leaders Forum Fellow at an event hosted by the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development.

The event brings together an interdisciplinary group of promising students who demonstrate interest in devoting their careers to international agriculture and rural development. The Fellows gain a network of individuals interested in similar topics and can develop long-term relationships with other Fellows, key agencies and international partners. 

As a Fellow, Paudel and 12 other students also got to tour Washington, meeting with representatives from different development agencies such as USAID, World Bank, the Millennium Challenge Corp. and several other NGOs. Paudel said exposure to these institutions was beneficial for him because of his interest in pursuing a career in international development.

Later in June, Paudel returned to the nation’s capital to attend the International Relations Career Challenge, which is a course for young professionals interested in working in international relations. Paudel said out of the approximately 500 applicants, 31 were selected and those students came from 25 different countries around the world.

The course is designed to give students guidance and coaching regarding career development, including professional role selection, job-search strategy, application filling, profile presentation, interview performance and networking. Paudel said the event helped him streamline his curriculum vitae and gave him better ideas about how to present cover letters and other professional-development tools focusing on international jobs. 

Paudel has received several other accolades during his time at Penn State. In 2017, he was a participant in the U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security at Purdue University. In 2018, he was selected as one of 20 Next Generation Delegates for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Food Security Symposium, an event that had more than 800 applications from students attending 364 universities in 90 different countries.

Paudel at World Food Prize

Penn State doctoral student Sulav Paudel, left, is shown with Akinwumi Adesina of Nigeria, who won the 2017 World Food Prize Award. Adesina is president of the African Development Bank.

IMAGE: Sulav Paudel

In November, Paudel will be traveling to Hyderabad, India, to the International Plant Protection Congress to present his doctoral research conducted in Nepal. He was awarded a competitive travel grant from Global Programs Penn State to cover his travel. The conference is a premier event in the field of crop protection and brings together scientists, policy makers and other key stakeholders to share discoveries for sustainable crop production and food security.

“This dual title program that Penn State offers has given me a broad spectrum,” he said. “I love working with insects, but I also love to travel, and I love helping farmers, so international development is a good fit for me.”

After completing his degree, he would like to return to Nepal, but added that his goal is to feel good about the work he is doing and help as many people as possible in the process. He thanked Rajotte and Gary Felton, professor and head of entomology, for their support.

“I have to give a lot of thanks to them and to everyone in the program at Penn State,” he said. “If I hadn’t come to the states to continue my education, I’d be a different person. We live in a very global world and having the chance to be exposed to a culture very different from the one I grew up has been hugely beneficial.”


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Last Updated July 23, 2019