The 2012 Plant Sciences Symposium will feature six accomplished and dynamic scientists who will speak about Emerging Trends and Paradigm Shifts in Plant Breeding.

For more information about the program schedule, go here. To register for this free event, visit this page.



Dr. Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens began his career with Pioneer in 1993 when he was hired to initiate a new soybean research center in northern Illinois.  Paul is a native of west central Illinois where he grew up on a grain and livestock farm.  Paul received his B.S. degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University and his M.S. and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois in soybean breeding and genetics.  During his graduate studies he worked in soybean breeding, soybean tissue culture, plant pathology.

Prior to joining Pioneer, Paul held a post-doctoral position at the University of Illinois in Lila Vodkin’s lab, working on soybean molecular genetics.  The northern, IL research center was initially placed at LaSalle, IL then moved to its current location at Princeton, IL in 1998.  In 1998 Paul was promoted to Senior Scientist, then to Research Fellow in 2008.  In May 2010 Paul accepted the Senior Research Director role for Pioneer’s soybean product development group.


Dr. José Crossa

Title: “Advances in Modeling Genotype x Environment Interaction in Genomic Selection and its Importance for Sustainable Cultivars”

Dr. José Crossa has been a principal scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) located in Mexico, D.F., Mexico, working in the Crop Research Informatics Lab as part of the Biometrics and Statistics Unit since 1998 having begun his career at CIMMYT as a post-doctoral fellow in 1984. Dr. Crossa holds a B.S. in Agriculture from Universidad de la República Oriental del Uruguay, Facultad de Agronomía (1974) and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1984).

Dr. Crossa’s research focuses on developing statistical models and methods to aid plant breeders. Such methods have included means for analyzing and interpreting Genotype x Environment interactions and assessing yield stability of genotypes as well as statistical models for analyzing molecular genetic data and QTL Environment interactions.


Dr. Patrick Schnable

Title: “Changes in Gene Copy Number and PAVs Contribute to Genetic Gain”

Dr. Schnable received his BS from Cornell University in 1981 and his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1986. During 1986-1988 Schnable conducted post-doctoral research with Heinz Saedler at the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Zuechtungsforschung in Germany.

Schnable joined the faculty of Iowa State University in 1988 and is currently a professor in the departments of Agronomy and Genetics, Development and Cell Biology. He manages a vigorous research program that emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to understanding plant biology. His own expertise is in the areas of genetics, molecular biology and genomics, but he collaborates with researchers in diverse fields, including biochemistry, plant breeding, plant physiology, bioinformatics, and computer science.


Dr. Kevin Folta

Title: Functionalizing the Strawberry Genome: New Genes for Valuable Traits”

Kevin is an Associate Professor at the University of Florida and Graduate Coordinator for the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program.  His lab maintains two key areas of focus.  First, his lab leverages the power of the efficient strawberry transformation system to test the roles of novel genes in strawberry fruit quality, with a focus on flavor.  Next, his lab also studies the effects of light on plant form and function using the Arabidopsis model system.  Kevin is engaged in new efforts in undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral training.  He also embraces public education in hot-button issues such as GMOs, climate change, vaccines and evolution.


Dr. Andrew Bent

Title: “Sustainable Disease Resistance”

Andrew Bent is a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Bent received his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California-Berkeley.

Dr. Bent’s research has been focused on elucidating the molecular basis of early pathogen recognition and signal transduction events that activate defenses for disease resistance. His lab integrates experimental results to improve molecular genetic methods and disease resistance in soybean. Current areas of research include the functional characterization of protein products of the leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain that recognize pathogen-derived compounds, gene discovery with mutant screening, and mutations of an ion channel that activates plant defenses but blocks programmed cell death.


Dr. Molly Jahn

Title: An International Perspective on Plant Breeding and Food Security”

Molly Jahn received the BA with distinction in biology from Swarthmore College and holds graduate degrees from MIT and Cornell University. She is a Professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and Department of Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin, and Special Advisor to the Provost for Sustainability Sciences.  In 2011, she was selected to represent the U.S. on a 13 member high level International Commission for Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.

She has had a distinguished research career in plant genetics, genomics and plant breeding of vegetable crops focusing on molecular genetics of disease resistance and quality traits. She has also worked extensively in developing countries to link crop breeding with improved human nutrition and welfare.  Her innovative approaches to inter-sector partnerships, engagement with emerging institutions, and integrated projects focused on impact, civic science and technology transfer have been highlighted in numerous studies and books.  She has consulted widely in the private sector, and has served as an advisor for philanthropic interests, venture capital and finance, First Nations, U.S and foreign governmental agencies in agriculture, food security, life and environmental sciences.