Texas Tech University


In Profile: Chess champ Andrenko finds a home in CASNR research program

In Profile: Chess champ Andrenko finds a home in CASNR research program

Like many other graduate students in Texas Tech University’s Department of Plant and Soil Science, Iryna Andrenko has a full plate of duties from a tech-heavy class schedule to cutting edge horticulture research projects.

Andrenko, however, has the distinction of holding a Woman International Master title and National Master title in the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF rating: 2285) to help her game out her limited time. Daily, the 25-year-old from Simferopol, Ukraine, says the ancient game helps her slow down and use a focused decision-making process to boost critical thinking.

“Chess helps me to be more creative and to think out of the box,” Andrenko said. “I also look several steps ahead when solving scientific problems.”

To become a Women International Master, players need to achieve an international rating ELO 2200, based on competition winnings, as well as winning a specific number of games in international tournaments. Andrenko has been at master status since 2009, and a member of Texas Tech’s award-winning chess team, known as the Knight Raiders, for the past two years. Along with other Knight Raiders, Andrenko also volunteers at scholastic chess tournaments and other community events in Lubbock.

When not in the classroom or chess competition, Andrenko can be found working as a graduate assistant under the direction of Cynthia McKenney, the university’s Rockwell Professor in Horticulture in the Department of Plant and Soil Science. McKenney, who received a Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Faculty Award in February, is a nationally-recognized professor of ornamental horticulture.

In the laboratory, Andrenko works on The Raider Wildflower Collection, where she has been working with salinity tolerance of four native species to help determine those crops best useful in a landscape environment with saline water or soil. Andrenko, an engaging student with an affinity for ornamental plants, chose Texas Tech and its horticulture science program largely due to its professional staff and course selection.

In late February, Tech’s Knight Raiders, took first place at the Southwest Collegiate Championship win comes on the heels of the players’ victory at the 2016 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship in New Orleans in December. There, Tech qualified for the College Final Four Chess Championship and will compete for the top honor March 24-26 in New York City.

Founded only 10 years ago, the Tech’s chess teams have won more than 10 national titles, and the program was named 2014 Chess College of the Year. Currently, the program has 20 students attending Tech on scholarship, including Andrenko.

After graduation from the master’s program, Andrenko plans either to work as a horticulture specialist or to pursue a doctorate in plant and soil science. “I’m grateful to chess for providing me the opportunity to study at Texas Tech and the ability to apply concentration and critical thinking skills in my graduate research,” she said.

Written by Norman Martin

CONTACT: Cynthia McKenney, Associate Chair and Rockwell Endowed Professor of Horticulture, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-0722 or cynthia.mckenney@ttu.edu

0308NM17 / Editor’s Note (3/28/17): The Knight Raiders won second place at the 2017 President’s Cup at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City. The championship, also known as the Final Four of College Chess, included defending champion Webster University, Saint Louis University and the University of Texas-Dallas. It’s the fourth consecutive year and seventh time overall Texas Tech has competed in the national championship.


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