Deeksha Shetty earned her Master of Science in Applied Microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan. (Photo: Maria Fernanda Romero Peña)

USask graduate student earns international award

Deeksha Shetty came to the University of Saskatchewan (USask) to earn her master’s degree, and leaves as the winner of one of the most prestigious agriscience research competitions in the world.

The 28-year-old from Mumbai, India, came to Saskatoon in 2016 and completed her Master of Science in Applied Microbiology at USask in March, and then finished first in the Alltech Young Scientist competition in May, an international event featuring entrants from 120 universities and 40 countries.

After winning the North American regional championship in March, Shetty earned the global title in May by presenting her research paper on Salmonella—a major cause of food poisoning—to a panel of international judges at the annual ONE: Alltech Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I was thrilled when my name was announced as the global winner of the Alltech Young Scientist competition, since I was aware that this title can open doors for many new opportunities to collaborate with leading researchers world-wide,” said Shetty, who completed her master’s under the supervision of Dr. Darren Korber (PhD), the department head of Food and Bioproduct Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at Usask, and Dr. Sinisa Vidovic (PhD), assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. “It was a great honour to win the competition, and of course the prize that comes along with it.”

Now in its 14th year, the Alltech Young Scientist competition has awarded $1-million in prizes, with more than 60,000 students from over 70 countries taking part in the annual event.

Shetty’s award included a $10,000 first-place prize, in addition to providing invaluable career networking opportunities. Now working as a research assistant at McGill University in Montreal, Shetty said she thoroughly enjoyed her three years on campus at USask, and the mentorship that she received.

“During my graduate years, the university moulded and exposed to me to a myriad of ideas and opportunities. It was my honour to represent the University of Saskatchewan and North America as a whole, on the global platform,” said Shetty, who was also recently named the graduate student ambassador for the Canadian Society of Microbiologists. “My supervisors, Dr. Darren Korber and Dr. Sinisa Vidovic, gave me excellent guidance and ideas throughout my program. They have always supported and helped me grow on both professional as well as personal levels. They were the best mentors anyone could ask for.”

While she faced an initial adjustment coming to Canada, Shetty said USask quickly became her new home as she bonded with fellow students and faculty.

“I experienced a climatic shock, since I came from Mumbai where the temperature is 30 degrees or more and Saskatoon welcomed me with minus 30 degrees temperature,” said Shetty, who is now applying for permanent residency and plans to make Canada her home. “But when I met my professors, they were very kind and co-operative, and I quickly got involved with student organizations, so I didn’t feel Iike I was an outsider.

“The University of Saskatchewan felt more like a home, as I have spent some of the best years of my life in the university. So, it was altogether a very good journey for me.”

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