Maddala, Santos, Bazzer, Chlapecka, Priess Earn CSES Departmental Honors

Sumandeep Bazzer (left), from Punjab, India, has been named the top doctoral student and Justin Chlapecka (right) of Newport, Arkansas, is recipient of the Spooner Scholar Award in Bumpers College's Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences.
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Sumandeep Bazzer (left), from Punjab, India, has been named the top doctoral student and Justin Chlapecka (right) of Newport, Arkansas, is recipient of the Spooner Scholar Award in Bumpers College's Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Several students have been recognized for outstanding academic achievement by the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences in U of A's Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

Srusti Maddala is the top senior for 2020, Caio L. dos Santos the top master's degree student and Sumandeep Bazzer the top doctoral student. In addition, Justin Chlapecka is the recipient of the Spooner Scholar Award and Grant Lawson Priess is winner of the Ron and Alice Talbert Award.

Maddala, an environmental, soil and water science major from Springdale, also earned the Tri-Societies National Student Recognition Award. A Bumpers College senior scholar, her research, under the guidance of professor Mary Savin and clinical associate professor Lisa Wood, entailed the novel use of microdialysis, a diffusion-based sampling technique, to monitor real-time fluxes of nitrogen in the rhizosphere of plants native to Arkansas, which are known to hyperauccumlate nitrogen. 

"As I began to take classes in ESWS, I began to see the urgent need for interdisciplinary work in the fields of soil and environmental science to combat the effects of climate change and environmental degradation," said Maddala. "This led to the development of my honors thesis project."

Santos, from Minas Gerais, Brazil, focuses his research on plant physiology and plans to pursue a doctorate in crop physiology and modeling.

"By researching crop physiology, I hope to optimize inputs and resources of agricultural systems, aiming to shift crop production to a more sustainable and profitable path," said Santos. "I have had an amazing experience as a CSES graduate student. The University of Arkansas provided me the opportunity to learn more every day about row crops, plant physiology and soil fertility."

Bazzer, from Punjab, India, also earned the Gerald O. Mott Meritorious Graduate Student Award in crop science. Her research, under the guidance of Distinguished Professor Larry Purcell, focused on two soybean traits, breeding for increased water use efficiency (WUE) and improved N2 fixation, which would increase soybean resilience to water deficit conditions. 

"Although approximately 80 percent of the Arkansas soybean crop is irrigated, the depletion of ground water brings into question the long term practice of irrigation," said Bazzer. "In the U.S., drought stress leads to the reduction of five to 60 percent of soybean production every year. There is a need for development of cultivars with drought tolerance to copy with adverse climatic conditions and improve crop performance."

Chlapecka, a doctoral student from Newport, is developing research-based recommendations for production of furrow-irrigated rice in the Mid-South, including fertility and irrigation management. He hopes to use the Spooner Scholar Award to learn about and directly experience the California rice industry.

"My experience at the U of A has been invaluable," said Chlapecka. "It has allowed me to work with world-class researchers in my field while developing lasting relationships, both on a professional and personal level." 

Priess, from Weatherford, Texas, is a master's degree student who earned the department's 2019 Outstanding M.S. Student Award, a U of A Doctoral Academy Fellowship and Arkansas Soybean Promotional Board Fellowship. He is also co-inventor on a recent provisional patent.

His Ph.D. research focuses on the optimization of dicamba and glufosinate in XtendFlex systems. He hopes to develop sound weed management recommendations that reduce selection for herbicide resistance.

"I have been blessed to be a part of one of the premier weed science programs in the nation at the University of Arkansas," said Priess. "Graduate school has helped mold me into a young professional with an understanding of the importance of reputation, quality of work and attention to detail." 

"CSES is proud to announce our outstanding student awards for the 2019-20 academic year," said department head Robert Bacon. "Even though we were not able to hold our annual awards banquet, we want to recognize these students for their hard work and dedication. We know each of them will make significant contributions as they pursue their careers."

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website, and follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumpersCollege.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2.7 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

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