Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award

Congratulations, Award Recipients!

In 2017, the Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award (NBSAA) was presented to 33 high school juniors, recognizing their achievements in science, scholarship and service. This fall, seven of last year's recipients enrolled at CFANS and received a $1,000 NBSAA scholarship! Thank you to the alumni volunteers, high schools and students that were part of this year’s success. See below to learn more about the program and become a volunteer. 

Norman Borlaug Science Achievement AwardCFANS is Science for Life!

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that high school students understand the important need for them to put their science skills to work to provide a sustainable nutrition program globally. And you may be just the one who is a catalyst in developing the next Dr. Norman Borlaug. They may live in your community. Every day more students that are non-traditional discover a match with their life and career goals and the College of Food Science, Agricultural Science and Natural Resource Sciences. Several made that discovery after receiving the Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award.

Support Science Achievement in Your Favorite School District!

The Alumni Society of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) welcomes your help to expand its Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award program, established in 2005. It recognizes a deserving high school junior who excels at science. Help your favorite high school honor an outstanding junior for their scientific achievement.

You are the CFANS Ambassador

Dr. Norman Borlaug came from a humble farm background is Cresco, Iowa. He then put to use his scientific expertise developed at the University of Minnesota to be a world-renowned solution to world hunger. Volunteering to present a NBSAA gives you the opportunity to connect with the local high school, potential CFANS students and the community all while providing greater awareness of the University of Minnesota and the CFANS mission. You may be the catalyst for the development of the next Norman Borlaug.

What is a Book Award?

Every year some of the most prestigious colleges throughout the United States connect with local high schools and present a selected student with recognition and a book that may best represent their college, alumnus or achievement.

The CFANS Norman Borlaug Science Achievement Award goes a step beyond. Instead of selecting a senior, this award is given to a junior, who still has open options for college selection. A University of MN alumnus often authors the NBSAA book awarded. In addition to receiving a thought-provoking book and award certificate, the recipient is recognized for excellence in science—recognition that is surprisingly rare in high school awards programs. As a bonus, the participating high school receives a copy of the same book for their library. The student also benefits from establishing connections to the University of Minnesota and CFANS, as well as helpful alumni. Additionally, a $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to each recipient upon his/ her successful enrollment in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Volunteers make the program the success that it is.

Your total time commitment is usually 1 to 2 hours between now and the award presentations at the local high school in late spring. Make a difference in the life of a local student through just a few simple steps. You do NOT have to know a student at the high school of your choice to be able to present an award. The school selects the student - you just help present it.

Who was Normal Ernest Borlaug?

NORMAN ERNEST BORLAUG, an American biologist and humanitarian, was born March 25, 1914, on a farm in Iowa. He enrolled in the University of Minnesota, where he studied forestry, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1937. He received a master’s degree in plant pathology and genetics two years later, and earned his PhD in 1942. To pay for his education, Borlaug took various jobs, including one during the Depression with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Here he worked with the unemployed, many of whom were starving, an experience that left a permanent impression on him. In a later interview in the Dallas Observer, he explained his change of heart: “I saw how food changed them. . . .All this left scars on me.”

During World War II he worked for DuPont, an American chemical company, researching compounds useful to the US armed forces. These included camouflage, canteen disinfectants, and saltwater-resistant glue. Borlaug moved to Mexico City after the war to direct the newly established Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program, a joint undertaking of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government. The group of Mexican and US scientists focused on wheat and maize production, plant pathology, and soil improvement. Here Borlaug developed a semi-dwarf wheat that was high yielding and rust resistant. His work led to increased production of wheat in many countries, including Mexico, Pakistan, and India, and thus improved these countries’ food security. Combined, his work and improved agricultural techniques have been labeled the “Green Revolution”. Borlaug was credited with saving more than a billion people from starvation and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He continued promoting these ideas, asserting that increased crop yields would help curb deforestation.

Despite his many accomplishments, Borlaug’s work has garnered criticism from environmentalists and nutritionists. The concerns have been on several fronts: for bringing large-scale monoculture farming to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming, for decreasing biodiversity, for introducing inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, and for promoting genetic crossbreeding. Others lamented the fact that his methods often brought huge profits for US agribusiness and agrochemical companies while also widening the social inequality in countries where they were implemented. Borlaug listened to his critics but dismissed many of them as elitists. In an interview with the Atlantic he maintained that many of those who criticized his approach “had never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. . . . If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world . . . they’d be crying for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals.”

In 1970, Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his significant contributions to humanity.

Biography of Norman Ernest Borlaug written by Susan Davis Price from the book, Ten Plants That Changed Minnesota by Mary Hockenberry Meyer and Susan Davis Price.