Casey Ruark, a PhD student in the Department of Plant Pathology, was named as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow for 2014. The award includes three years of support for stipend as well as cost-of-education expenses. Casey’s proposed research topic is titled “Utilizing viruses within soybean cyst nematodes (Heterodera glycines) as a potential avenue for biocontrol”. In the United States as well as many other top soybean producing countries, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the most destructive pathogen to soybean crops. This damage is glaringly evident in North Carolina where an estimated sixty-percent of soybean acreage is infected with SCN resulting in annual yield losses of four to eight-percent. Casey’s research emphasis is in examining whether North Carolina field populations of SCN harbor viruses, and if these viruses result in a phenotypic change in the nematode that can be exploited as an environmentally safe biocontrol of SCN.