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Costa Rica, Dole and NCRC Launch Banana and Pineapple PhD Programs

August 03, 2015







Kannapolis, NC− There are college students in Costa Rica balancing long hours in the laboratory with high-level science classes who are wondering where their education will take them. For at least two students, the answer is North Carolina.

Dole Food Company is sponsoring banana and pineapple PhD programs in partnership with NC State University, the NC Research Campus (NCRC) and the Costa Rican government and universities.

The foundation was laid for the new doctoral programs in meetings held last week between NCRC researchers, Dole scientists from Central and South America and representatives of the University of Costa Rica, the National Center for Science and Food Technology, the University of Costa Rica Agricultural Research Center, EARTH University and the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE).

Nicholas Gillitt, PhD, Dole vice president of nutrition research and Dole Nutrition Institute director, emphasized that Dole’s sponsorship pays for the candidates’ education at NC State University and for their leadership role in the NCRC’s Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP), a training and internship program researching blueberry, broccoli, oat, strawberry and, in 2016, banana and pineapple.

“Our visiting Dole scientists as well as the representatives from Costa Rica both learned the true value of the P2EP program, and how we can collaborate on the development of new banana and pineapple varieties, a critical goal for Dole and Costa Rica,” Gillitt said.

Costa Rican universities have only two months to nominate candidates qualified to study metabolic pathways producing nutritionally important phytochemical compounds in banana varieties as well as traits of disease resistance and drought tolerance. Vanessa Gibson, CINDE’s director of corporate development and investment climate, said the nomination process begins this week with a conference call involving universities and representatives of Dole in Costa Rica. Nominations for the pineapple PhD program will be accepted in 2016.

“We’re looking forward to receiving the student nominations,” said Mary Ann Lila, PhD, NC State Plants for Human Health Institute director. “Dole plays a huge role at the NCRC, and Costa Rica is a key banana and pineapple growing region. Extending this opportunity to Costa Rican universities is going to create a very strong program.”

The PhD programs are the first result of a research and education agreement established in May 2015 by Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis and David H. Murdock, NCRC founder and CEO and Chairman of Castle & Cooke and Dole Food Company. There are others to come.

“Learning about the NCRC model and the caliber of the people and research that are done on campus was amazing,” Gibson said. “We will be following up on the PhD candidates as well as on our interest in Costa Rican student internships at the NCRC and inviting NCRC faculty to our country. We are sure this is the beginning of a very fruitful partnership.”


About the North Carolina Research Campus

The NC Research Campus is home to corporate, academic and healthcare partners all focused on advancing science at the intersection of human health, agriculture and nutrition. The NCRC is located on a 350-acre campus in Kannapolis, NC, just north of Charlotte. For more information, visit

About the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP)

P2EP is an undergraduate internship program led by NCRC partners UNC Charlotte, NC State, Dole Foods, General Mills, UNC General Administration and the David H. Murdock Research Institute. The undergraduate interns who are led by graduate student team leaders represent universities and college throughout North Carolina and the United States. They conduct research into the ways that crops like blueberries, broccoli, oats and strawberries develop compounds that enhance human health. Additional support is provided by the Duke Energy Foundation, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Catawba College, Johnson C. Smith University, Linguamatics Ltd., Winston-Salem State University, Pfeiffer University, Duke Energy Foundation, Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, Holiday Inn & Suites – Kannapolis, the NC Biotechnology Center and Turner Construction. For more information, visit

About EARTH University

Since 1990, EARTH University’s innovative educational approach has been preparing young people from Latin America, the Caribbean and other regions, including Africa and Asia, to contribute to the sustainable development of their countries and construct a prosperous and just society. EARTH offers a rigorous four-year undergraduate program in agricultural sciences and natural resources management and a prestigious, international faculty, providing a world-class scientific and technological education that emphasizes values, ethical entrepreneurship and environmental and social commitment.

About the University of Costa Rica

The University of Costa Rica (in Spanish, Universidad de Costa Rica, and abbreviated UCR) is a public university with its main campus, Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, located in San José. It is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious institution of higher learning in Costa Rica, originally established as the Universidad de Santo Tomás in 1843. It is also the most important research university in the country, and Central America. Approximately 39,000 students attend UCR throughout the year.

About the University of Costa Rica Agricultural Research Center

The Agricultural Research Centre of the University of Costa Rica is a unit where the professionals from different areas of agronomy share a space for research on various topics related to soil fertility and plants, agricultural biotechnology, biochemical processes in soil, agricultural microbiology, postharvest technology and natural resources. Analysis services of soil samples, plant tissues, fertilizers, organic fertilizers and other materials are provided, as well as consultation with various organizations and businesses across the country.

About the National Center for Science and Food Technology

The National Center for Science and Food Technology, known as CITA, is a national center dedicated to interdisciplinary research, human resource training and scientific and technological assistance from the national agri-food production sector. The CITA is organized into four processes: Research, Analytical Services, Consulting and Training, all working under a quality management system that ensures compliance with the requirements of the food industry.


Media Contact:

Jennifer Woodford, N.C. Research Campus, 704-200-5070 or

Megan Bame, N.C. State University, 704-250-5461 or


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