Plant science student earns outstanding presentation award

Published By: Latasha Ford January 18, 2018

Fort Valley State University plant science major Courtney Lester

Fort Valley State University senior Courtney Lester recently earned an award for outstanding presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Phoenix, Arizona.

The 22-year-old Macon County, Georgia, native received recognition for the research he conducted for nine weeks in summer 2017 at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

Lester, who is majoring in plant science with a concentration in environmental soil science, said his research involved finding whether a specific gene plays a role in making tomato plants use nitrogen found in the soil more efficiently. ABRCMS representatives judge students on their research topics, how well they answer questions about their work and presentation skills.

Lester said it meant a lot to present his research and see the determination and hard work pay off.

“I was really emotional. It was a happy moment,” he said. “I always stress that whatever I’m doing, I make sure that I’m having fun.”

For his recognition, Lester received a certificate and monetary award. He also mentioned that he had the opportunity to meet many professors from different universities. He is considering graduate school at UC Davis and aspires to work in sustainable agriculture.

Following graduation, Lester first plans to apply for the Peace Corps. “Being able to help people and see your work firsthand and the impact that it has on people is more important to me than making money,” he said.

No stranger on the FVSU campus, Lester is a student leader, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and was Mr. Fort Valley State University in 2015. He also interned with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Montana and Madison, Georgia.

Lester’s advice to students pursuing a plant science degree is to go for it and not limit themselves. He said he always gives his all with anything he does.

“I love it. It has presented many opportunities for me. I’ve traveled, I’ve learned and I’ve met people, so I’m constantly moving forward with it,” he said.

Lester thanked his professors and FVSU staff who have molded him, pushed him forward and made opportunities available for him.

“It was left up to me to capitalize on it,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have known about most of the things I’ve been able to take advantage of.”

Sixteen students and five faculty members from Fort Valley State University pose for a photo while attending the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Phoenix, Arizona.

Overall, 16 students and five faculty members from FVSU attended the conference.

“Each student representing us did an exceptional job preparing for and then making their research presentations. I am proud of all of our hardworking students. There is no doubt more great things will come from them,” said Dr. Sarwan Dhir, director of FVSU’s Center for Biotechnology, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) and the S-STEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program. He also thanked FVSU faculty for providing hands-on mentoring in their labs.

ABRCMS is an annual conference organized by the American Society for Microbiology and supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. It is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral undergraduate, post baccalaureate and graduate students. More than 2,000 students from more than 350 colleges and universities participate in the four-day conference.

For more information about ABRCMS, visit