Visiting scholars from Honduras gain practical experience

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Zamorano group
Visiting students from Zamorano Pan American Agricultural School in Honduras are returning home after studying for a semester with LSU AgCenter faculty members. First row: International Programs assistant coordinator Susan Karimiha, Ivan Guevara, Martha Escoto, Ingrid Osorio, Marggie Quiroz, Alicia Bustamante. Second row: Emilio Gutierrez, Anna Borjas from EARTH University in Costa Rica, Hugo Anzueto, LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson, Janny Mendoza, Franklin Bonilla. Photo by Olivia McClure

News Release Distributed 04/30/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – After a semester studying and working with LSU AgCenter faculty, nine visiting scholars from Zamorano Pan American Agricultural School in Honduras are returning home with some valuable practical experience under their belts.

Zamorano, an undergraduate-only university, requires its students to complete professional internships. The AgCenter's visiting scholar program helps students fulfill requirements while giving them a chance to work with top-notch faculty on innovative projects in labs and research stations.

Food science student Franklin Bonilla worked in AgCenter food scientist Subramaniam Sathivel's food processing lab on a project to improve shelf life of shrimp and catfish using nanotechnology. Being able to apply his classroom knowledge in a real-world setting was empowering, Bonilla said. He also visited local processing plants, which he said offered insight into how his food science skills can be used.

After graduation, Bonilla plans to pursue a master's degree at LSU, partly because of his experience as a visiting scholar.

"I like the food science area," he said. "This gave me good experience and opened more opportunities in my future."

Students also say they've benefitted from being exposed to Louisiana's unique culture and getting to improve their English.

The AgCenter's International Programs office has collaborated with Zamorano since the early 1990s and launched a visiting scholar program in 2005. Since then, the AgCenter has hosted about 60 scholars from Zamorano, said Susan Karimiha, assistant program coordinator for International Programs.

Scholars who come to LSU in the spring semester are fourth-year undergraduates who work in labs and take classes to finish their graduation requirements. There is also a 15-week summer scholar program aimed at preparing Zamorano alumni for grad school.

Zamorano does not offer graduate programs, but some of this semester's visiting scholars plan to return to LSU in the fall to begin graduate studies.

One such student is Janny Mendoza, a food science student who wants to get her master's degree and doctorate from LSU. This spring, she worked with AgCenter food scientist Witoon Prinyawiwatkul to extend the shelf life of cooked sweet potato cubes and hopes to continue that research for her master's thesis.

"This program opens doors and is a super experience," Mendoza said. "I learned so much because of the knowledge of professors and their help."

The relationship with Zamorano exemplifies the AgCenter's commitment to taking the mission of improving lives through research and education worldwide, according to Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture.

“This not only gives opportunities to students from other countries — it also benefits those here at home,” Richardson said.

Maria Moore, LSU food science junior, is going to Zamorano this summer to study food processing and work on a lab project. A key part of the university is a working farm, which Moore believes will provide an environment for furthering her knowledge. There are also benefits to studying in another country, she said.

"Zamorano is unique because it emphasizes learning by doing," Moore said. "You're living on the farm there and finding out how to process all the different foods, which is different than here, and I'll get to improve my Spanish."

Olivia McClure

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