FLORENCE, S.C. – A Clemson University doctoral student has been named a National Association of Plant Breeders Borlaug Scholar.

A.J. Ackerman

The Borlaug Scholars Program is named after Norman Borlaug who was a renowned plant breeder largely credited with igniting the Green Revolution and fighting worldwide hunger. A.J. Ackerman of Prophetstown, Illinois, is majoring in Plant and Environmental Sciences. He studies under the direction of Rick Boyles, an assistant of plant breeding and genetics at the Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Center (REC).

“Studying under Dr. Boyles has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Ackerman said. “He challenges me while cultivating an excellent learning environment, whether in his office during a thoughtful discussion or doing hands-on breeding work out in the field. It’s difficult to find people genuinely invested in your success and well-being like Dr. Boyles, and I’ve been so lucky to have him as a mentor.”

Ackerman plans to continue working in plant breeding and “develop cultivars that are impactful on farms in private industry,” he said, adding that he will “greatly benefit” from what he has learned during his time at Clemson.

In addition to Boyles, other Clemson administrators and staff Ackerman credits for their guidance are Paula Agudelo, associate dean of research and Experiment Station director; Brad Stancil, director of the South Carolina Crop Improvement Association and S.C. Official Variety Trial coordinator; and the Crop Team at the Simpson Research Farm, one of six research farms in Clemson’s Piedmont Research and Education Center.

Being named a Borlaug Scholar is quite rewarding for Ackerman who has admired Borlaug’s work for some time.

“He approached his work with the same grit he developed from growing up on a farm in Iowa,” Ackerman said. “I’ve studied his life and he’s been an inspiration to me throughout mine. It’s an honor to be recognized by an award named after him.”

Borlaug Scholars receive financial support to attend the National Association of Plant Breeders Annual Meeting. This year’s virtual meeting takes place Aug. 15-19. Boyles said attending this meeting will introduce Ackerman to many of the leaders in his field and to be involved in top-level discussions of current and emerging issues in both the science and business of plant breeding.

“This is a high achievement,” Boyles said. “Being able to attend this meeting and interact with his colleagues in the plant breeding profession is priceless. Not only will the knowledge and relationships he gains help him launch his career, but he also will continue to draw from these experiences well into the future.”


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