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Courage to Climb Award Winner – January 2016

The Division of Student Life would like to congratulate Utsala Shrestha on being selected as the winner of the January 2015 Courage to Climb Award.  Utsala is a Ph.D. student from Kathmandu, Nepal studying Plant Sciences.

Utsala began her work in horticulture in Nepal as a Horticulture Development Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture. Her journey at UT started as a master’s candidate in Landscape Architecture but she later joined Department of Plant Sciences to pursue doctoral degree in Plant Soil and Environmental Sciences. She began her research with Dr. David Butler in sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and disease suppression.

Utsala’s research works specifically with anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD), a technique that suppresses soil borne diseases. ASD is a non-chemical alternative to methyl bromide fumigation, a chemical that was banned due to its harmful effect on the environment. The use of ASD is a new trend in her field, specifically applying it to specialty fruits and vegetables. Utsala plans to present her research results at several scientific meetings in 2016, including the Southern Division American Phytopathological Society meeting.

Utsala’s experience at UT as a graduate and international student has been very positive, noting the impact of the International House and the I-Navigators program that helps international students’ transition to life at UT. Utsala said that “UT feels like home.”

She previously served as the Nepalese Student Association president where she led the organization through success and hardship. The organization hosted a blood donation program at UT, participated at international festivals, and also responded to the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal and contributed $9,000 to the Red Cross Society, Help Nepal Network and other organizations.

Utsala received the 2013-2014 Chancellor’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship Award and 2015 Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) Research & Education Scholarship.

When asked what she wants people to remember about her work, Utsala stated her research focuses on three main principles: safe food, safe environment, and the overall safety of workers.