Early Career Scientist Spotlight | Samikshya Rijal


Started my first watermelon breeding project at the UGARden Student Community Farm greenhouses, UGA. photo courtesy of Samikshya Rijal

What is the name of your institution and academic department or section?
University of Georgia, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics

What is your position? What type of degree program are you enrolled in?
Graduate Student – PhD candidate

Introduce yourself—your background, where you are now, and your current research focus.
I have dedicated my academic and research career to agriculture. Horticultural breeding was the center of focus during my bachelor’s (Tribhuvan University, Nepal) and master’s degrees (University of New Hampshire, USA). Currently, I am a Ph.D. student at UGA, Athens, Georgia. My research focuses on a watermelon breeding program for disease resistance.

What is the focus of your work?
plant breeding, plant pathology, genomics

Why did you choose to work with Cucurbits, plant breeding, plant pathology, and genomics?
My interest in Agriculture and cucurbits is bound to my livelihood. Cucurbits are part of inter-crop in the traditional subsistence farming system still followed in my hometown (Hills of Nepal). The fruits of crops like squash, cucumber, bottle, sponge, and bottle gourds serve as food. At the same time, some of them are cover crops required to avoid soil erosion in the hilly landscape during heavy seasonal rainfall. Diseases and pests are a significant issue in crop production. I am interested in a sustainable solution. That is why, as a researcher, I lean towards the genetics of disease resistance.


What do you hope to accomplish during your time working on the CucCAP grant, and what do you most look forward to in this position?
I am thankful to previous and existing research personnel in the CucCAP grant to have achieved significant progress in the watermelon breeding program. First, I anticipate my involvement in increasing the breeding materials (Citrullus PIs). Furthermore, I hope to contribute my efforts to solving gummy stem blight related research and field issues. I am looking forward to identifying the disease resistance gene. And more important, towards the development of resistant cultivars. I am more excited about the opportunity, made possible by this grant, to use recent molecular techniques to achieve my research goals.

Who is your major professor?
Cecilia McGregor

Please provide a brief description of your research.
From the beginning of the year 2021, I started working on watermelon breeding and genetics. My primary goal is to assist in the development of gummy stem blight (GSB) resistant breeding material. My study will involve some crop wild relatives (CWRs) of watermelon for resistance genes. Continuing and supplementing the prior achievements from our lab and other cucurbits researchers, I aim to map Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) and identify candidate genes. Another part of my research is to perform an expression analysis of GSB resistance. Ultimately, I aim to integrate resistance genes into an elite cultivar.

What is your hometown?
Dhulikhel, Nepal

What is your favorite crop, gene, pathogen, and plant disease?
“I like all members of the gourd family. I am fascinated by the variation in growth habits, fruit shape, size and rind patterns, culinary values, and traditional norms associated with cucurbits in different groups of people.
My favorite gene is a resistance gene (R) involved in the resistance reaction in plants. I find the life cycle and host-pathogen relation of rust pathogens very interesting. ”

Do you have any social media handles that you want included?

  • Linkedin: Samikshya Rijal
  • Facebook: Smikshya Rijal
  • Instagram: rijalsamikshya