Applied Biotechnology Major
Paul Ruddle may not have any formal journalism training, but as they say in the business, he has a natural knack for news. A senior double majoring in applied biotechnology and biological sciences, Ruddle's heart actually belongs to science. His wallet is what led him to join the staff of the University of Georgia's The Red & Black student newspaper.
During the summer of 2007, the Valdosta native was working in Regent's Professor Susan Wessler's laboratory (plant biology) when he was offered a job working for the newspaper as well.
"I have a lot of web design experience from working on UGAkey.com, a Web site that shows grade distributions at UGA, and the paper needed an on-line editor," recalled the Valdosta native. "They offered me the position and at the end of the summer they asked me to stay through the fall."
As he perused Facebook one night, Ruddle stumbled upon a message that became the lead to his Betty Gage Holland Award-winning article.
"One of my friends was mad about a judiciary case going on between a faculty member and a student who had left some derogatory remarks on a class evaluation form," he said.
When he couldn't find a reporter who could attend the meeting the next morning, Ruddle grabbed pen and paper and covered the story himself.
"I took some notes, got some phone numbers and asked for some open records," he said. "When I tried to turn in my notes to the editorial advisor so a reporter could write the story, he told me I needed to write it myself."
UGA Grady College students must cringe when Ruddle modestly says, "It was the first story I had ever written." His debut story led to a $1,000 award for both him and The Red & Black as the sponsor publication.
The recognition in the journalistic world hasn't swayed Ruddle from his love of science, particularly plant breeding. Third in his class at Lowndes High School, Ruddle is attending UGA on the Foundation Fellowship, which pays for the full cost of attendance, a study abroad experience each spring and provides $9,000 for self-directed travel.
His freshman year, Ruddle travelled to Australia, sophomore year found him in Ecuador and junior year took him to the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica.
Ruddle's first contact with UGA and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences came through faculty members on the Tifton campus.
"In eighth grade I started a four-year project on soybeans, looking at the differences between Roundup Ready and others," he said. "I grew the plants in Valdosta but went to Tifton to do the laboratory tests. There I met scientists like Dr. Knauft, Dr. Adang and Dr. Ruter and started to feel (plant breeding) would be a very challenging career."
Now close to completing his bachelor's degree, Ruddle is already using the knowledge he has gained in his CAES classes.
"I took Dr. Vencill's weed science class as an elective but I learned a lot about herbicides and weed science," he said. "I took Dr. Knauft's plant breeding course my sophomore year and now, in my internship, I keep coming back to what he taught me then."
This December, Ruddle will finish a six-month maize internship with Pioneer H-Bred International in Princeton, Ill.
"I've been involved in many aspects of the company's breeding program, from helping with planting to checking fields," he said. "The most important thing I've learned is that you have to have good quality data from the beginning."
Ruddle plans to eventually pursue a doctorate and is "leaning toward" working on the industry level.
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