When their university offered them a chance to study in the United States for a semester, Fabrizio Pilco and Manuel Cornejo jumped at the opportunity. The two Zamorano University undergraduates studying agricultural science from Ecuador are part of the Association of Graduates of the Pan-American Agricultural School in the United States (AGEAP USA) mentoring program. The University of Florida is a partner institution.
“Zamorano is always looking for the best academic experiences worldwide for its students, I applied to UF because it is ranked as a top-five public research university,” Pilco said. “In addition, I always wanted to learn other cultures and see the reality of agriculture and research projects at UF, an institution with a long history of working in tropical systems.”
“It’s been a positive experience that has helped me learn different skills that I will be able to apply in lab work and fieldwork,” Cornejo added. “UF is a big institution with a variety of opportunities and interesting research programs.”
The two were placed in Dr. Gabriel Maltais-Landry’s lab. Maltais-Landry, an assistant professor of sustainable nutrient management systems, has them helping with his research focusing on nutrient cycling in various organic vegetable systems, with an emphasis on cover crops. The two have helped collect samples from the field and run analyses in the lab.
“This experience will help me better understand, and put into practice, all the knowledge I have learned so far,” Pilco said. “I am also learning new things about agricultural sciences, which is something that I really enjoy.”
“What I’m doing now will open new doors to different opportunities for me,” Cornejo said. “I want to apply what I’ve learned in this project to my own work back in my home country.”
Both are planning to apply to graduate school in the United States with a focus on agriculture programs. They think their time at UF in the Soil and Water Sciences Department will help them gain admission.
“Having Fabrizio and Manuel helping with our research has been a good experience for them and me,” Maltais-Landry said. “While they’re here to learn, the UF students are also gaining a different perspective on agriculture from them.”