Meet a Plant Pathology Graduate Student: Zennah Kosgey

November 3, 2015

Plant Pathology Graduate Student Zennah Kosgey

Zennah Kosgey
PhD Student

Advisor: Matt Rouse

Previous Degrees: B.S. General Science (Botany Major) - Moi University, Kenya, 2010
M.S. Plant Breeding - Egerton University, Kenya., 2015

Hometown: Eldoret, Kenya

What is your research focus?

My research focuses on stem rust of wheat.

What is your favorite fungus? 

Puccinia graminis f.sp tritici

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Hiking, playing football and listening to music when indoors

What is plant pathology to you?

Plant pathology is like Google to me, especially with the diseases affecting wheat. For me it means unraveling how the pathogen is playing more tricks by evolving time and time again. Current molecular techniques in plant pathology are giving me more ideas on how to pin down this wheat monster.

Why did decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

I did my masters in plant breeding and my research was on identification of novel sources of resistance to stem rust Ug99 in a panel of diverse wheat lines, and I also did some inheritance studies on some resistant lines. Every time I evaluated wheat germplasm in the field against stem rust I had two questions in mind; how is this pathogen able overcome resistance in lines that were resistant previous years; and what was making the pathogen prove so stubborn to be eliminated from this earth? I promised myself to further my studies one day in plant pathology, a subject I never thought I would be involved with in my entire life. I had an opportunity of visiting the University of Minnesota as a visiting scholar for 2 weeks in 2014. One of the places I visited and vowed to be back by all means was the USDA Cereal Disease Lab, a place where creditable work on rusts is carried on, so I applied for admission to Plant Pathology. It wasn't easy to get here but hey, here I am, being sponsored by the BHEARD Program doing my Ph.D. in Plant Pathology (molecular track). I believe this experience will guide me on coming up with new ways of eradicating the so called 'wheat monster' disease in Kenya.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future? 

I hope I will have success in my research by using new approaches to developing durable resistance to the significant rusts diseases of wheat. My ultimate goal is to contribute to having disease-free cultivated crops (especially wheat) by coming up with these new approaches.