Three Fresno State plant science students were honored by Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, as Agriculture Science Students of the Year on Thursday at the Center for Irrigation Technology on campus.

Graduate student Rama Paudel (of Nepal) and seniors Julie Pedraza (of Modesto) and Mala To (of Cambodia) claimed all three awards for college students in the 23rd district based on their dedication to the future of Central Valley agriculture.

“These brilliant students represent the best of the best,” Patterson said. “Their devotion to making a difference in our agriculture science community is to be commended, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”

The second annual awards were presented by Patterson, Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro and Sandra Witte, interim dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Paudel has won numerous awards including the Gerald O. Mott Meritorious Graduate Student Award – one of two granted nationally in 2015. Her master’s thesis has focused on the effects of air pollution and water deficits on crops versus weeds. She is also working on research projects related to weed ecology, biology and herbicide resistance issues. Passionate about improving the agricultural conditions in developing countries, she has served as a district agriculture officer, information and publication officer and survey enumerator for various Nepalese organizations.

Pedraza is a student lab technician with the USDA Agriculture Research Station in Parlier, and conducts research on quarantined, invasive pests, nematodes and pathogens. She received scholarships from the Cotton Alliance and Protectors Golf Association, and volunteered with Valley Children’s Hospital, FFA and the University High School Science Olympiad entomology team. She started the Plant Health Society campus club that connects Fresno State students with industry experts, community leaders and research scientists via monthly lectures.

To has served as the Fresno State Plant Science Club president the past two years and will receive the American Society of Agronomy’s National Student Recognition Award. Her first research project on how light affects herbicide-resistant hairy fleabane weeds led to an internship with Bayer CropScience and won first- and third-place awards in poster contests at the California Weed Science and Soil Science Society competitions. She has worked on numerous community service projects including the creation of a “Valley Farm” agriculture awareness exhibit at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

For more information, contact Alisha Gallon, communications director for Patterson, at 661.364.3655 or