From tiny seed to large tree: a story of inspiration

We had a chat with Ghent University Professor Pieter Spanoghe and listened to the story of how an eight-year old boy grew up to become a professor at Ghent University and chair of the 14th IUPAC Conference on Crop Protection. His story began a few decennia ago with a visit to a farm museum. This small event had a major impac ton the rest of his life.

But how can this seemingly minor event, turn into such an inspiring story?

Thanks to the farm museum visit, Pieter was passionate about agriculture and decided his studies would reflect his passion. He submitted an essay to the  European CIBA (Chemical Industry Basel) Novartis Agricultural Student Award in 1997 in the hope of enriching his studies. “We had to write a vision paper on the importance of sustainable agriculture in a future European economic perspective”, Prof. Spanoghe reflects on the contest. “I ended my essay with the statement: ‘Sustainable agriculture can only succeed when mankind is willing to change their attitude’. I still believe this is true today”. With that strong conclusion, the essay of Pieter was selected. During the next Easter holiday, he enjoyed a life enriching trip to the CIBA Novartis headquarters in Switzerland.

Fast forward to a few years later, and with even more experience under his belt, Pieter went on to pursue his PhD on crop protection at Ghent University in Belgium and then as a doctoral assistant there. In 2012 Pieter realized his first dream: he became Professor and Head of the crop protection chemistry Department at Ghent University. According to Pieter, one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a professor is the possibility to inspire young people and give them access to the knowledge they need to realize their dreams.

 “The IUPAC international Congress of Crop Health is held every four years and is considered as the Olympic Games on this specific research topic”, says Prof. Spanoghe. After seven years in the organizing committee of the International Symposium on Crop Protection (ISCP) at Ghent University, Pieter felt ready for trying to realize his second dream. He applied for the organisation of the 14thIUPAC Congress on Crop Protection Chemistry… and succeeded!

Why did Pieter want to organize this congress and include young agricultural students and researchers?

Young people are unwritten pages and we have the opportunity and responsibility to create a future generation of critical thinking human beings. In my opinion, including the Next-Generation Agri Summit in the IUPAC Congress is the perfect occasion to engage and build awareness of the next generation of scientists and farmers in the role of crop protection in a global and sustainable food production system”, says Pieter, “That is why we have decided that ‘Crop Protection: Education of the Future Generation’ will be the conference theme

In the end I hope the Next-Generation AgriSummit, supported by CropLife International, will serve as a springboard for young scientists and will inspire them to pursue their own dreams, just like the former CIBA Novartis Agricultural Student Award inspired me.”

“If you can dream, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

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