A select group of 12 Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students have embarked on a transformative journey as participants in the 2024 class of the Bayer 4 University, or B4U, mentorship program, sponsored by Bayer Crop Science.

This program, now spanning 27 universities in North America and an additional 13 worldwide, aims to enrich the careers of budding scientists by enhancing their skills and technical expertise, both in the laboratory and the field.

The heart of the B4U program focuses on professional development such as collaborative skills, career development and the quest for work-life balance. Teaming up with the College, Bayer provides a platform for graduate and postdoctoral students to set personal and career goals, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, navigate the nuances of the private-sector scientific culture, expand their networks and refine soft skills such as effective communication and constructive collaboration.

The Aggie mentees from the 2023 class praised the program, describing it as incredibly supportive and nothing short of transformative.

Engaging students globally

Eight students stand with their thumbs up.
Graduate students gather for the “Bayer 4 University” mentorship program kick-off meeting. (Katie Perkins/Texas A&M AgriLife)

The 2024 cohort wasted no time diving into the program’s offerings, beginning with a virtual participation in a global kickoff event on March 12, which drew nearly 500 participants worldwide. Among the mentees are individuals from diverse academic backgrounds in  the College, including from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology.

The 2024 mentees and their field of study are:
– Pradip Sapkota, soil and crop sciences.
– Kayla Beechinor, soil and crop sciences.
– Sabahat Zahra, molecular and environmental plant sciences.
– Luke Whitely, soil and crop sciences.
– Moeka Ono, ecology and conservation biology.
– Priscilla Glenn, biochemistry and physics.
– Sabin Khanal, plant pathology and microbiology.
– Roly Malaker, soil and crop sciences.
– Sudip Biswas, soil and crop sciences.
– Yi Zhou, plant pathology and microbiology.
– Usha Pedireddi, soil and crop sciences.
– Chiranjibi Poudyal, soil and crop sciences.

“The B4U Program has had over 50 student participants from Texas A&M University since 2019, and we are excited to be offering the Bayer mentoring program once again in 2024,” said Chandra Aradhya, Ph.D., a Bayer scientist and Science Fellow in St. Louis, who oversees regulatory related herbicide resistance management strategies and coordinates the mentorship program at Texas A&M. “We are encouraged and impressed with both the number and quality of the applicants.”

Volunteer Bayer scientists dedicate their time to provide personalized one-on-one mentorship, supplemented by webinars, site visits, and both online and in-person events. This multifaceted approach aims to equip late-stage graduate students and postdocs with the tools they need to thrive, whether they envision a future in academia, the private sector or elsewhere.

Administrators at Texas A&M, including Sakiko Okumoto, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, are instrumental in sponsoring the program.

“Many of our graduates aspire to choose an industry career after graduation,” Okumoto said. “Having external mentors who are well-versed in the culture of science in the private sector is extremely valuable.”

As the B4U program continues to flourish, it stands as a beacon of support and guidance for the next generation of scientific leaders in the College.

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