Roshni Panwala was taking regulatory science courses in agriculture to meet the choices for her double major in political and agricultural science. She noticed that some of these courses had a common “vibe”: there were few tests and quizzes, they constantly included guest speakers, and they offered networking opportunities.
It wasn’t until she took her fourth such course that she learned that she was only one course away from earning the only certificate of its kind in the country: the Certificate in Human Sciences. regulation in agriculture. The program and her classes were more than perfect for her unique double major. They were a stepping stone to a career in regulatory science in agriculture.
We chatted with Panwala, an undergraduate student who just graduated from Agricultural Regulatory Sciences, to find out how the program meets her professional needs and her keen interest in agricultural and human sciences.
How did you become interested in the Agricultural Regulatory Science Certificate Program?
I was in a plant biotechnology course with Dr Chad Jordan. In this course, we have reviewed the policies for regulating genetically modified crops and have had many interesting seminars on the subject. I did not know at the time that there was a certificate associated with this class. But after finding out that there was one, I wanted to pursue him. I was fortunate to have already taken most of the courses that were requested of me because of my background in political science. Most of the courses also applied to my double major.
This certificate program is known for its guest speakers. What are they talking about?
The very first guest speakers I saw were from APHIS (USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). They spoke about their role in North Carolina, how to increase consumers’ understanding of genetically modified foods and the future of biotechnology. They went deep and kept my commitment throughout. We recently had a day where a guest spoke about animal waste and crops, how they are managed on cropland. There has been a lot in the news — sometimes accurate and sometimes not — about the mismanagement of hog farms and the policies surrounding it.
What interests you so much in the field of regulation?
I was first interested in the policy that affects small farmers. As I began to see broader agricultural perspectives, I saw how essential it is on the ground to focus on the policies that underpin all aspects of agriculture, from large to small, and to to follow them. I was also majoring in Political Science, and I could see Regulatory Science as a way to combine the two fields of study. I was very excited to know that there was an opportunity to intertwine them, to protect people and the industry.
What aspects of the Agricultural Regulatory Science Certificate program stood out to you the most?
It’s very different to be in a classroom with a teacher. You get a lot of information on different topics, all under the umbrella of regulation and agriculture through industry experts. We would meet two or three people for each three hour class. You can directly hear what they are saying about actual regulatory work, as well as ask questions. You get the information first hand, from someone who works in the position.
This program is also well known and much appreciated. I once went to a conference in Missouri called Agriculture Future of America (AFA). There was a dinner at the end of the conference where we were able to interact with many recruiters and representatives of various agricultural companies. I told one of them that I was from the state of North Carolina. He said, “So are you aware of their regulatory program? You should examine. When you graduate let me know and I will hire you.
You didn’t come from a traditional farming background, so how did you get interested in farming?
My high school geography teacher was a farmer and he introduced me to agriculture. But I still wanted to please my parents, so I turned to agricultural engineering. I quickly realized that this was not the field I wanted to be in. Then I took a soil science course in the Department of Crops and Soil Sciences with Dr David Crouse. I loved his course because of the direct connection he had to the field of agriculture. Working with plants, soil, and people has always been my end goal, and her class was the first in a series that helped bring me closer to that goal.
What area of regulatory science would you like to work in after graduation?
I’m interested in global policies, especially related to gene editing in other countries, like Brazil, where their policies are more flexible than ours, and China, where they are more stringent. I’m also interested in phytopathology and APHIS, see what they do; and travel the world. I have heard from so many different people that there are a lot of opportunities no matter where I go. Whether I’m doing plant breeding or plant pathology, there is one area of regulatory science that I will fit into. There has been a lot in the news — sometimes accurate and sometimes not — about the mismanagement of hog farms and related policies.
Would you recommend the Agricultural Regulatory Science Certificate program to others? If so, who would you recommend this program to and why?
I would absolutely recommend this program, especially for students interested in biotechnology and the regulatory field. The lessons are particularly interesting in person; you can actually meet the experts to get that face to face connection, and many will probably remember you in the future. This course is not for everyone, however. The courses are not focused on tests and quizzes. There is a lot of information, and you have to see how it all connects. You get what you put into it. Course participants will be successful if they engage, ask questions and immerse themselves. Otherwise, you just take another class.