About Rizky Kirana, OeAD scholarship holder
Rizky holds a B.Sc. in Agronomy from Sebelas Maret University, Indonesia and an M.Sc. in Plant Breeding from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, BOKU Vienna-Austria, supported by the OeAD Indonesia-Austria scholarship programme. Her PhD supervisor is Hermann Bürstmayr from the Department of Agrobiotechnology Tulln, BOKU. During her PhD programme, Rizky works on the phenotypic and genotypic characterization of Fusarium head blight resistance in Triticum durum and Aegilops tauschii. Through genome-wide association mapping using 600 durum wheat experimental lines carrying resistance genes from T. aestivum, T. dicoccoides, and T. dicoccum, she elucidated the genetic control and improved durum wheat resistance by combining favorable alleles. The second project collaborates with the John Innes Center, UK, and evaluates the potential of Ae. tauschii, the progenitor of the wheat D subgenome, for FHB and Deoxynivalenol (DON) resistance. She now has won the 2022 Women in Triticum award.
Why did you choose to study agronomy and plant breeding? Any inspiring moment/person?
My mother is everything to me. The woman who raised and educated me to become who I am today. My mother owns a small shop that sells farmers' necessities, such as seeds, fertilizers, and gardening tools. Since I was 12 years old, I helped my mother in the shop after school. Interacting with small farmers, and listening to all the problems they face, made me get to know the world of agriculture firsthand. My mother always said, someday, help our farmers. Attend an agricultural school, so you can help them and develop your mother's business better. Starting from this intention and encouragement from my mother, I took Agronomy while pursuing a bachelor's programme. My achievements are pretty good, I became the best graduate of Agronomy at Sebelas Maret University, Indonesia, and I had the opportunity to study at Kasetsart University, Thailand, for one year. After graduating, I received support from my lecturers during my undergraduate studies and from my mother to continue my master's studies at Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. I chose the plant breeding programme because I saw Indonesia's great potential as one of the countries with the largest mega biodiversity in the world. Unfortunately, we still have limitations to having seeds and still import a lot of seeds from other countries. The opportunity to do a master's thesis in Japan increased my curiosity about international research activities. It also further increased my knowledge about the magnitude of the global threat related to the food crisis and climate change. Thus, the journey after completing my master's studies brought me back to the academic world. Gadjah Mada University trusted me to be one of the academic staff to teach, conduct research and serve the community on the condition that I must complete my doctoral studies.
Why did you apply for a scholarship in Austria?
I am interested in focusing on plant breeding, specifically disease-resistant breeding. I see great opportunities to apply this expertise in academics, research, and industry. I was introduced to Prof. Hermann Buerstmayr, a professor specializing in disease-resistant breeding for wheat at BOKU, Austria. The research topic he offered matches with what I want. The research group he leads also collaborates with various institutions in various countries and industries (breeding companies). Everything felt perfect with the offer for the Indonesia-Austria Scholarship Programme (IASP), funded by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Indonesia in collaboration with OeAD-GmbH Austria. I participated in the IASP scholarship selection and managed to get funding for doctoral studies at BOKU, Austria. Under the supervision of Prof. Hermann Buerstmayr, Dr. Barbara Steiner, and Dr. Sebastian Michel, I am doing research that I love and which is in line with my passion.
Since the start of your scholarship: Which personal or professional experiences were particularly important for you?
At the beginning of my preparation to leave for Austria, OeAD's support provided information on doctoral study procedures, and housing preparation was really helpful. The timely transfer of the scholarship and fast response to all emails I sent helped me a lot from the beginning until now.
Furthermore, the support from my family and supervisors since I started my studies and living in Austria means a lot to me. My family gave me the strength and motivation to never give up, and the support from my supervisor made me feel welcome and allowed me to learn and develop during my time in Austria.
Is there any relevant anecdote or story you would like to include?
I am a mother with one child. I left for Austria, leaving my husband and daughter in Indonesia. While I was in Austria, my child was looked after by my mother. I've had a pretty hard condition of separation for two years, especially with my child. Then in the 3rd year, my mother suddenly passed away because of a Covid-19 infection. In that moment I was devastated and confused. I returned to Indonesia for my mother's funeral. Mentally and heartbroken, I intended not to return to Austria and wished to complete my doctoral studies in Indonesia while taking care of my child. During my stay in Indonesia, my supervisor's attention was very great. Through email and online meetings, we kept in touch. I finally decided to return to Austria to continue my studies while taking my child with me. Doctoral studies while raising a child alone is not an easy thing. I was greatly helped by the Austrian government supporting system and the support from my supervisor and colleagues, which enabled me to continue my doctoral studies until now.
What are your plans for the future?
After completing my doctorate, I plan to return to Indonesia and devote myself to teaching, research, and community service in agriculture. I want to continue to develop cooperation on an international scale, conducting applied research that can help the global community. As soon as I get a postdoc opportunity, I will take it as part of my career development.
In the future, I want to realize the dream I once imagined with my mother: to build a breeding company that can employ local people. Maybe not a big business, just a small business with 20-30 employees. But I think if there are a million people who have the same desire with different business fields, of course we may reduce the number of unemployed in our country.
What do you recommend to other scholarship holders for a successful scholarship stay?
Loving what you do is the key to making things easier. No matter how hard the problem, never forget that there are many good people around you. Being adaptive and always friendly will always bring good things.
The OeAD team wishes Rizky all the best for the termination of her PhD studies and all the best for her personal and professional future!
Scholarship holders, who would like to share their success stories may send them to email@example.com