The Doctorate in Agricultural Sciences is a 4-year postgraduate program at the Austral University of Chile. Rodrigo Arias took over the direction of the program around 2017 and since then has adapted to the new challenges and demands of the student body.
Millaray Mariqueo, Science in Chile.- Rodrigo Arias is an agronomist by profession and is currently in the second year of a research project related to climate change, studying how climatic conditions are affecting milk production and quality, from central Chile to Puerto Montt, ” basically what we are looking for is to be able to model and quantify the productive and economic impact of heat stress in the dairy sector at a national level”, he points out.
Within his work as Director of the program, the researcher highlights the importance of transferring learning to doctoral students “when we go to the world of academia, it is an essential part of transferring the learning and knowledge that one is acquiring both in research and in productive world and without a doubt, the fact of having an accredited program is an incentive because it invites people to work with all areas”.
In addition, he mentions that within the program they have the advantage of having foreign students, which allows them to learn from other cultures, other knowledge and other agroclimatic realities, “what we investigate here can be very different from the baggage that a student brings, for example, from Colombia or Ecuador and there one obviously also grows as a person because he or she is acquiring the knowledge that the student brings, so it is a relationship where the student and the academic win”.
Rodrigo mentions that improvements have been implemented to the eaves of the accreditation process in search of increasing the enrollment of students in the program, within them, a system of scholarships called links was included, which allow students to enroll and support them in their application for the scholarship ANID, “practically 100% of our students are scholarship holders, So that has been the emphasis a bit from the point of view of applications, thanks to this we have increased the number of students who make their applications.”
Relationship between production, product quality and human health
Among the areas that Rodrigo mentions as fundamental in his contribution as a researcher, is the relationship between production, product quality and human health, in which he highlights that they are looking for partners in the area of human medicine that allow them to develop projects to study the effect of the way of producing (production system) on the quality of the product and finally how the consumption of these products affects the health of people and the planet.
“Today there is evidence that meat, milk, cheese and animal products in general from pastoral systems transfer a lot of functional compounds that are beneficial to people’s health, they are not nutritional as such, but they do have a role important functional, and that is gaining more and more relevance at a global level, so that is one of the approaches that we want to give in the near future to the program”.
For this purpose, today they are presenting projects to ANID in order to finance this type of research. On the other hand, the aspect of sustainability also stands out, “it is something that is becoming increasingly relevant in livestock, crops and fruit trees, where we have to develop research that meets the demand for sustainability that exists. In addition automation and modeling are another relevant area, especially with the decrease in labor that is being seen more and more at the field level” such as robotic dairy systems, automated systems for pest disease control and others. Therefore, it is an important line to develop in the postgraduate course to incorporate in the training of future students.
In conclusion, the program seeks to train researchers and the themes and lines of research that support it allow it to meet that objective, so that the student learns to ask questions to design experiments that allow answering those research questions. The themes change according to the needs of society, they are circumstantial, but the essence itself of training a researcher is the center of the program.
Lastly, Rodrigo points out that during the last accreditation period many academics with new skills have joined, “The university is undergoing a process of academic renovation, which means that new skills have arrived, new knowledge and obviously the program adjusts to that, but the essence is the same, to train an independent researcher who knows how to ask research questions, design experiments to answer those questions and that these are close to the demand of the industry and society, in fact We are working on a project at the university level, for the formation of advanced human capital, but satisfying the demand of the company and the productive sector, so we want this link to be much greater” he concluded.
If you are interested in applying to the program, the income of the first semester open on August 7th and the closing is November 30th (for the ANID scholarships). Then for the second semester applications open on March 7th and closing is June 30th.