“How Nutreco’s Young Researchers Prize supercharged my research career” 

By Sudhanshu Sudan, winner of the 2020 Young Researchers Prize, PhD Researcher of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph Canada

The applications for this year's Young Researchers Prize are in full swing. I was lucky enough to enter and win the 2020 competition and the accolade transformed the course of my PhD research.

I understand first-hand the sacrifices and struggles that many PhD students face when trying to get their work recognised by the right people. Fortunately, opportunities like Nutreco’s Young Researchers Prize mean that committed young scientists can not only have their work rewarded, but recognised more widely with industry leaders and experts.

I have always been fascinated in molecular science, and I always wanted to solve problems in animal agriculture. My PhD focused on combating weaning stress in piglets using next-generation probiotics and antimicrobial peptides, so when I saw the email from my department encouraging students to enter the Young Researchers Prize, I knew I had to apply - and I’ll forever be grateful that I did.

  • The application process

Firstly, this is an opportunity like no other, so my advice for anyone considering applying is to go for it. Evidently, the financial reward is hugely appreciated for any young researcher. But for me it’s also about industry recognition, for yourself and your work. It indicates that all the time and effort put into your research can translate into making real-world differences, helping to solve problems in animal health and agriculture more broadly.

I found the application process really smooth when I applied, and after my initial submission, I was asked to deliver two presentations. While that can be slightly nerve-wracking, it was made easier by the judges’ enthusiasm for my project. It was a great honour to have experts in the field take genuine interest in what I was presenting. I understand that this year applicants have to submit a video, which I think is a great idea opportunity to convey all the passion you have for your project.

  • The impact of winning

It's hard to describe the feeling when you have been shortlisted as one of the top candidates from around the world. Then to go on and become the first-place winner, it was an extremely proud moment. It is the dream of any young scientist to see their work receive that validation, and it still feels surreal.

In addition, for my work to be recognised by world leading experts at Nutreco – and in my case, their livestock feed experts from Trouw Nutrition - is amazing; their guidance and knowledge has been invaluable and looking back, without the advice from the judges I would not have the confidence in my ability to be achieving what I am today.

  • My life after winning

A few years on from winning, I am still benefiting from the professional recognition that comes with the prize. Most recently I was awarded the converted Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) scholarship from my university in a collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture in Ontario. I am starting to have better success applying for other awards and scholarships because the Young Researchers Prize has elevated my profile, giving me a competitive edge over my peers.

I would highly recommend any person who is thinking about it to apply. You have nothing to lose, and if you are already working on a project then it makes sense to get it exposed as much as possible. With Nutreco being such a well-recognised international name, it really is a no brainer.

I am currently on the final version of my winning project. After having a successful animal trial, I am hopeful that I can complete my academic term and soon after, see first-hand how my research is improving the industry. A fantastic moment that I’m looking forward to, and will define my 2022.