Two students have received the title of Alltech Young Scientist for research demonstrating an exceptional awareness of science and its role in shaping the future of agriculture. 

Undergraduate student Amanda Pesqueira of the University of Kentucky and graduate student Nimesha Fernando of the University of Melbourne, Australia, were honored May 22 from a field of more than 8,000 global registrants. The students were recognized in front of a crowd of more than 2,300 during the closing session of Alltech's 29th International Symposium.

After a regional evaluation process in early 2013, eight finalists were invited to travel to Lexington, Ky., to deliver their research findings before a panel of judges. The undergraduate and graduate winners received $5,000 and $10,000 respectively.

Pesqueria attended the University of Maringa in Brazil before transferring to the University of Kentucky for her final year of undergraduate studies in animal science. Her research presentation, titled "Contractile Response of the Different Ergot Alkaloids in Bovine Cranial Branch of the Lateral Saphenous Vein In Vitro," examines the compounds involved with fescue toxicosis syndrome in cows through the use of an advanced testing system. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in animal science.

Fernando, a graduate student at the University of Melbourne, looked at how high levels of carbon dioxide in the environment affect the growth of grain through her research presentation titled "Free Air CO2 Enrichment Altered Wheat Grain Protein Quality and Rheological Characteristics: A Comparative Proteomic Analysis." Using proteomic analysis, she showed that exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide results in grains with lower levels of protein, and then applied her research findings to the use of wheat in food production.


Fernando holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture and a Master of Science in resource management from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. She is committed to finding innovative ways to maintain food quality through environmental changes.

"The theme of this year's symposium was Glimpse looking into the future and imagining the possibilities of what we can achieve together. But we need to cultivate curiosity in our young people to make progress toward these achievements," said Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech.

"Our Young Scientists are asking the question, 'Why not?' It's their sense of curiosity that will lead us to answers to reduce our carbon footprint, to feed our animals more efficiently and to improve the quality of human life through nutrition," Lyons said.

"This year, the Alltech Young Scientist finalists amazed our panel of judges with brilliant insights into the future of agriculture, but also with their personal dedication to advancement through research," said Dr. Inge Russell, director of the Alltech Young Scientist Competition. "Our winners' stories of perseverance and sacrifice are a true testament to their passion for science."