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Grad Slam Finalist Profile: Horticulture and Agronomy Ph.D. Student Paul Kasemsap

UC Davis graduate student Paul Kasemsap
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 (All day)

Meet Paul Kasemsap, Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Student and Grad Slam Finalist

Paul Kasemsap

Program, Degree & Year of Study
Horticulture and Agronomy, Ph.D. program, 5th year

Research Interests
Plant physiology (i.e. how plants turn sunlight, air, water, and dirt into food)

Previous Degree(s) & College(s)
Master of Sciences (Plant Sciences) - Wageningen University,
Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Sciences) - Kasetsart University

Title of Grad Slam Presentation
Mission: N-Possible

Describe your presentation style in three words. 
Show, don't tell!

What did you do to prepare for Grad Slam? 
I love talking about my research at UC Davis with friends and family, and then ask for feedback. This really helps me get better at being a friendly, neighborhood, science storyteller.

What initially attracted you to your field of study? 
The secret life of Plants! They can't talk to us directly, so this inspires me to pay attention to how they're responding to environmental factors, like light, water, or temperature. Plus, many of them are edible and visually pleasing! Who wouldn't love plants!

What do you like to do in your free time? 
I enjoy being outside in the sun. You will likely find me gardening, hiking, rafting, or just chilling out on grass.

Do you have any mentors who helped you develop your interest and strength in research communication? If so, how did they help you?
I owe my passion for science communication to all my teachers. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge Mrs. Malin Sakdiyakorn, my elementary biology teacher, who encouraged me at the age of 9 to go give my first-ever official science presentation about my pet betta fish, in front of a classroom full of 3rd grade kids. This tiny empowerment has a life-long impact.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
I see myself standing outside among plants in the field ('my playground'), working with other passionate individuals, still trying to learn more about these fantastic green organisms. Understanding their secret life will help us identify ad implement best practices in feeding this hungry planet.

Based on your qualifying round presentation, you were one of two finalists granted a Global Education for All Designation from Global Affairs. Can you tell us about the global significance of your research?
My “Mission N-Possible” explores how we can make wheat, a staple crop supplying significant amount of protein and calories in human diet worldwide (those bread, pizza, noodle, pasta and more… that we’ve been enjoying!), resilient to changes in the climate system. Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, as a result of human activities, prevent plants from turning soil nitrogen into protein, essentially threatening our global food and nutritional security. Across the globe away from my home country, I am grateful for access to higher education, which has granted me opportunities to learn how food is being produced in different regions around the world. This mission at UC Davis, should we accomplish it, will answer fundamental questions on how plants make food and help sustain nutritional qualities of human major food sources in response to climate conditions anticipated in the near future!

About This Year's Final Round

Due to the shelter-in-place order and the ongoing Coronavirus situation, UC Davis Graduate Studies chose to cancel the 2020 UC Davis Grad Slam final round event on April 7. 

Though the event’s cancellation draws this year’s competition to a close, Graduate Studies is eager to continue rewarding and recognizing the efforts of this year’s finalists. Graduate Studies, along with Grad Slam sponsors Public Scholarship and Engagement and Global Affairs, will be awarding each of the ten finalists a prize amount of $625. 

Graduate Studies will also be highlighting each of the finalists in web profiles and working with campus partners to identify alternative ways in which their contributions to society might be publicly recognized and celebrated over the course of the next year. 

For more information about UC Davis Grad Slam, visit the Grad Slam website or contact Kathryn Raley, Program and Event Manager for Graduate Studies, at

UC Davis Grad Slam Sponsors

Graduate Studies would like to thank this year's UC Davis Grad Slam sponsors for their generosity and support.

The Office of Research serves as the primary campus resource for matters related to research and technology commercialization. OR provides services and resources to simulate research, facilitate collaborations,  optimize infrastructure, ensure compliance and  translate innovations into commercial applications for societal benefit. Learn more by visiting the UC Davis Office of Research website.

Public Scholarship and Engagement (PSE) is fostering a culture of engagement at UC Davis that increases the university’s impact through mutually-beneficial relationships that have local, regional, statewide, and global reach. We envision UC Davis research, teaching and learning that serves society and makes a positive difference in the world. Learn more by visiting the Public Scholarship and Engagement website.

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching globally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.
UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.