Celebrating its fourth year, Cotton Incorporated's “Fellows” (CIF) Program continues to enrich the education of some of the brightest doctoral and post-doctoral students preparing for careers in agricultural sciences.

With the goal of stabilizing the future of the cotton breeding and genetics sector of the cotton industry, the CIF Program has successfully cross-trained and graduated seven individuals who, with the guidance of Cotton Incorporated, have worked with both cotton breeders and molecular biologists to reach their academic goals.

Started in 2002 by Roy Cantrell, Cotton Incorporated's vice president of agricultural research, the CIF Program is part of Cotton Incorporated's Breeding and Genetics Initiative that focuses on the genetic improvement of fiber quality and yield stability.

After joining Cotton Incorporated in 2001, Cantrell saw an immediate need for this type of program in the cotton industry. “Special programs like this are needed to replenish talent and attract some of the top students to cotton,” says Cantrell.

“These CIF students all work on Cotton Incorporated research projects and gain valuable experience in cotton breeding and genetics.”

The Cotton Incorporated Fellows who have graduated from the program thus far include: Brooks Blanche (Baton Rouge, La.), Chris Braden (San Antonio, Texas), James Frelichowski Jr. (College Station, Texas), Bill Hendrix (Stoneville, Miss.), Doug Hinchliffe (New Orleans, La.), Joe Johnson (Stoneville, Miss.) and Ed Lubbers (Tifton, Ga.). Recruited at a national level with their academic concentrations varying in range within the breeding and genetics spectrum of cotton, the individuals selected to participate in the program are offered tuition reimbursement and stipends for their work.

“I am confident that I have gained world-class training that would be hard to duplicate with any other program in the country,” said Bill Hendrix, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas and the CIF Program who maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout his studies.

He also noted that the hands-on experience he gained throughout his work as a Cotton Incorporated Fellow will be essential to his development as a seasoned professional in the industry. Hendrix recently accepted a job with Delta & Pine Land, Co., to manage its DNA Analysis Laboratory. He will be working to ensure both transgenic and molecular marker tests are completed correctly to assist in the company's molecular cotton breeding program.

A fellowship in the CIF Program is intended to last two to three years in preparation for obtaining desired jobs in the industry.