Student Spotlight: Sheryl Sierra

Sheryl Sierra
Meet Sheryl Sierra, a Ph.D. student in agronomy and horticulture from Cavite, Philippines.
October 18, 2022

Hometown: I am from the small town of Indang in the province of Cavite, Philippines.

Major: I am a third-year PhD student in Agronomy and Horticulture, with a major in Plant Breeding and Genetics. My research is to develop methods to improve breeding and selection for wheat quality and end-use traits in the UNL breeding program.

Anticipated Date of Graduation: I plan to graduate in spring of 2023 in May.

Why did you decide to come to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

Nebraska is an ideal choice for agriculture, and UNL has a strong agricultural program. I pursued this program because I wanted to contribute developing better varieties of wheat and barley that I believe will improve the quality of life for the world’s increasing population.

What is your favorite thing about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

The professors and administrative staff are very supportive in helping students succeed with our programs—social events, networking opportunities and of course free perks through the challenging times. Because the people are so supportive, it becomes easier to face the difficulties of being a student abroad. Dr. Katherine Frels has been especially helpful as an advisor to help me be a better breeder. Our research group, UNL Small Grains Breeding, is also an important support system for me.

What about diversity and inclusion is important to you when you think about your CASNR experience?

I work with a diverse group of colleagues, from many different countries and CASNR helps everyone feel included.

Exposure to cultural differences is a huge part of college. What activity have you recently participated in that is different from what you are used to in your culture? This could be something you read, listened to, watched, eaten or otherwise taken part in. What did you learn from this activity?

Here at UNL, sports are a big component, and I had my first experience watching American football at the Husker stadium. It’s also been interesting experience unique holidays, like the fireworks of July 4th. Thanksgiving is also a new experience for me; it’s fun trying out new foods like turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I’ve learned that no matter how busy life gets, it’s important to take time every now and then to spend time with friends and family.

What is your favorite class you have taken so far and why?

I particularly enjoyed AGRO 815A, Self-Pollinated Crop. I learned a lot of plant breeding techniques for self-pollinated crops like wheat and barley. But we don’t just learn technical procedures; Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger has been especially valuable helping me learn the practical side of being a breeder, which is inspiring for not just me but also other future breeders.

What are your plans post-graduation?

When I’m done with my program, I will go back to my home country, return to my home university of Cavite State University, and apply the knowledge I gained at UNL to teach and hopefully help to strengthen the plant breeding research program there in the Philippines.

What's life like outside of school?

I’ve been very active outside of school, making friends, traveling to different states, camping and playing sports like volleyball, tennis, and running. It’s important for me maintain a healthy work-life balance and playing sports and being with friends helps me do that.

What scholarships, if any, have you received?

I have received the Fulbright Foreign Student Program Scholarship for 2020-2022 and the Graduate Research Assistantship for 2022-2023.