It’s difficult to imagine a higher compliment for a particular academic department than to have outside institutions actively recruit its graduates. “We get inquiries regularly from universities like Cornell, Northeastern and the University of Rhode Island,” says Peiyu Zeng, Director of SUNY Cobleskill’s Biotechnology Department and Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Corporations want to talk to our students, too. Clearly our people are the sort that others prize.”
Peiyu credits this primarily to the intensive hands-on work that her students do. This is particularly true of a select group of junior and senior Biotech majors who do real and valuable leading-edge research in such areas as developing disease and drought-resistant crops for agricultural enhancement.
“We bring 10 to 14 students each year into the research program,” Peiyu explains. “Sometimes they come to us and ask to be considered for inclusion; other times we identify high-potential individuals and invite them to join the program.” A great deal of the research done involves genetics. It is demanding work, both in terms of the intensity of effort it requires and in the level of expectations that Peiyu has for students doing the work. The rewards, however, are significant, with some individuals having been invited to present their research findings at such gatherings as the American Society of Plant Biologist 2017 conference at Yale University, and at a similar conference at the University of Massachusetts in 2018.
Our program definitely makes its mark among other researchers working in our field,” Peiyu says with justifiable pride. “For instance, SUNY Cobleskill is one of only a handful of academic institutions that have been able to create a strain of soybeans capable of withstanding highly adverse growing conditions. It is wonderful for students to know that the work they do here will have a real impact – and real visibility – in the world outside our labs.”
Feature photo of Dr. Peiyu Zeng and students working in lab taken by Mohamed Baligh ’12, Communications & Marketing New Media Specialist.