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Meet Richard Lally, graduate winner of the 2016 Alltech Young Scientist award

July 25, 2016

A postgraduate student at the Institute of Technology, Carlow in Ireland, Richard Lally’s research on plant growth promotion won him first place at the graduate level of the 2016 Alltech Young Scientist (AYS) program. In addition to global recognition at the ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference, he took home $10,000 and secured a two-year fully-funded postdoctoral contract with Alltech.

“It has been one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences of my life and has been my greatest achievement to date,” said Lally.

Lally noted that he has been overwhelmed by messages of support, which he is still receiving to this day. It has touched him and made him very emotional that people cared so much about him and the work he is doing.

Lally spoke of his pride in representing not only his college, but his village and country. He credited the other three finalists from the postgraduate section and said they are all exceptional scientists.

“To have been selected overall award winner is a real privilege for me, considering their excellent research and talents,” he said.

Lally received his undergraduate degree in bioscience with an emphasis in biopharmaceuticals in 2012. He is currently in the process of completing a Ph.D. in environmental biotechnology and bacterial genetics. Lally’s research has been on plant growth-promoting bacteria.

“These bacteria produce mechanisms as part of their normal cellular metabolism,” said Lally. “The mechanisms help protect plants against disease, benefit soil nutrient availability, produce plant growth hormones and can relieve plant stress.”

He focused on three Pseudomonas fluorescens bacterial strains and their symbiotic relationship with bio-fuel and the food crop rapeseed oil.

“I examined the plant growth promotion potential of the three bacterial strains, determining how they colonize and increase plant biomass,” he said.

The current use of “agri-chemicals” can negatively impact climate, ecology and water resources in addition to being threatening to human health. Lally’s research aims to provide alternative solutions.

“This area of research is deemed relevant in sustainable agriculture, and the bacterial treatments (or biofertilizers) have the potential to reduce the application of agricultural chemicals,” he said.

He believes his research will provide new insights into the genetics of plant growth promoters, how they interact with plants and their field potential for crop production.

“I hope overall to contribute to the understanding of plant growth-promoting bacteria and their role in sustainable agricultural practices,” said Lally.

Lally is currently finalizing his Ph.D. thesis and preparing papers to be submitted for peer review. Once Lally receives his Ph.D., he will begin his postdoctorate research with Alltech. Lally wants to further broaden his skills in biotechnology, sustainable agriculture and research.

“I now wish to apply my skill set to a constructive and innovative working environment,” said Lally. “I have many ideas that I wish to work toward experimenting with in the future.”

After Lally completes his time with Alltech, he plans to get a job in which he can contribute to the education and development of others. He’s thankful for the people who surrounded him on this journey and credit them for where he is today.

“Ultimately, a dream job for me would be a job that I can develop in, help others develop through, one that is satisfying to work in and, of course, one that makes me happy,” said Lally.