The gift of perspective | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

It’s the mid-1970s and the Ph.D. candidate Tom Wentworth steps off the plane in Costa Rica for a two-month course. This is the first time the plant ecology student has left the United States and he is amazed.

“It was such a big eye-opener,” says Wentworth, now a professor emeritus of plant and microbial biology at North Carolina State. “It changed my life in so many ways. It opened my eyes to the potential of international travel, cooperation, learning, cultural immersion – everything.

That’s the kind of experience Tom and his wife, Linda Rudd, are now providing to NC State students and faculty through a donation to the Research Pack Abroad program. The donation will fund student and faculty travel to ensure that the opportunity for students to work in labs abroad is a dream they can achieve.

Wentworth’s trip abroad as a student in the 1970s would not be his last. After graduating, he joined NC State as a faculty member in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. In the 1980s and 1990s, he facilitated student study trips abroad with the Organization for Tropical Studies. In odd years between 2013 and 2019, he co-taught a month-long study abroad course in Botany at Zhejiang University in China with Professor Jenny Xiang. On even-numbered years, he helped host large groups of students from Zhejiang University to NC State.

“My experiences with joint courses with Zhejiang University have really reinforced my love of studying abroad,” Wentworth said. “The contacts I made during the courses turned into participation in research. I hosted a Chinese visiting scholar in my lab, Jenny hosted Chinese visiting scholars and PhD students, and she led the process of creating and strengthening agreements between NC State University, the University of Zhejiang and other partner universities to actively engage NC State faculty and their students. engaged in study and research abroad.

Wentworth’s passion is deeply rooted in the belief that opportunities to travel, study and research abroad provide students with invaluable prospects. After retiring, Wentworth began thinking about how he could give back to NC State, and an idea was born from memories of that very first study trip he took to Costa Rica as a doctoral student.

After speaking with the Office of International Programs, he and Rudd, an NC State alumnus, decided to support the Research Pack Abroad Program Travel Fund.

“The Research Pack Abroad program is different from traditional study abroad programs because it places NC State students in the lab of a researcher in another country,” says Wentworth. “They are supervised in the laboratory of this researcher. It’s a totally immersive experience for them – working in the lab, living alone in another culture.

Research Pack Abroad provides undergraduate students with an international research experience – working side-by-side with scientists and immersed in another culture. The program connects students with a host international research institution, where they conduct research for at least two months during the summer. Partner institutions to date include the Instituto de Productos Lácteos de Asturias in Villaviciosa, Spain; the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru; and Universitat Politecnica de Valencia in Valencia, Spain.

During their residency, students gain in-depth knowledge of laboratory procedures and/or field research protocols at their host institution. They also develop skills to maneuver in complex situations and increase their ability to solve problems. Perhaps most importantly, they gain a new perspective on Aboriginal culture and critically integrate it into their own values, beliefs, and goals.

Opportunities for international collaboration are vital as the State of North Carolina and other institutions strive to address global challenges in agriculture and beyond. Wentworth hopes the encouragement from this program will help foster new connections that will lead to solutions.

“We chose to make this gift because we believe the future will be one of increasing global connectivity and that NC State University faculty and students will personally and professionally benefit from enhanced research opportunities abroad” , did he declare. “We hope that this donation will foster such international relationships by providing opportunities for faculty to travel abroad to establish research partnerships with overseas colleagues, and that students will then travel to conduct research within these partnerships. .”