1st Annual Plant Sciences Symposium

The UW-Madison Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council hosted the 1st Annual Plant Sciences Symposium Symposium titled Modern Tools for Plant Genetic Improvement on Friday, October 28, 2011. There were several distinguished speakers,  discussions about plant genetics, and catered food. The event was held in the Forum room at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at UW-Madison. The symposium featured talks from six accomplished and dynamic scientists.

Dr. Daniel Gianola
“Predictology: From pedigrees and DNA to complex phenotypes”

Dan Gianola is the Sewall Wright Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, and the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Gianola earned his B.S. in Agronomy and Animal Sciences at University of Uruguay; he then obtained a M.S. and Ph.D. at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Gianola’s research focuses on statistical problems in quantitative genetics and animal breeding, including Bayesian approaches for inference about parameters of linear and nonlinear models of censored and discrete distributions. Moreover, he is involved in international animal breeding and biometry.

Dr. Jianming Yu
“Opportunities and challenges of genome-wide association studies for plant breeding”

Jianming Yu is an Associate Professor in the Agronomy Department at Kansas State University. Dr. Yu earned his B.S. at Northwestern Agricultural University, M.S. at Kansas State University, and Ph.D. at University of Minnesota.

Dr. Yu’s research focuses on complex trait dissection, identifying molecular variation underlying phenotypic variation. His current projects include genome-wide association analysis with diverse germplasm or multiple designed mapping populations, genomic selection to efficiently integrate high throughput genotyping into pedigree breeding, gene cloning of traits with agronomic and domestication importance, and genome and chromosome evolution across taxonomic groups.

Dr. Philipp Simon
“Color, flavor, and nematode resistance: Selecting complex phenotypes in carrot”

Phil Simon is the Research Lead of the USDA-ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Simon earned his B.S. in Biology at Carroll College and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Genetics at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Simon’s research focuses on genetics and biochemistry of culinary and nutritive factors in carrots and garlic, including terpenoid and sugar genetics, plant cell culture, and genetic transformation.

Dr. Karen McGinnis
“Epigenetic regulation of gene expression in maize”

Karen McGinnis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida State University. Dr. McGinnis earned her B.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Biology at Arizona State University.

Dr. McGinnis’s research seeks to understand how identical genomic sequences can produce distinct expression patterns and phenotypes. Her current projects include epigenetic regulation of the expression of endogenous and transgenic loci and the presence and function of alternative transcripts in plants. These phenomena have been shown to be key elements in the growth, development, and gene regulation of a broad range of organisms.

Dr. Radu Totir
“The application of high density marker data to a commercial maize breeding program”

Radu Totir is a Research Scientist in the Breeding Technologies group at Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business in Arlington, Wisconsin. He earned a B.S in Animal Science at University of Agricultural Sciences in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, followed by a Ph.D. in Animal Breeding and Genetics at Iowa State University.

Dr. Totir’s research is focused on the development and use of statistical and quantitative genetics techniques that exploit phenotypic, pedigree and DNA data collected within Pioneer breeding programs.

Dr. David Miller
“Applying the tools for plant genetic improvement to serve the common good”

David Miller is the Research Manager of the alfalfa product development program at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a DuPont Business in Arlington, Wisconsin. He earned a B.S. in agronomy at University of Illinois and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics at New Mexico State University.

Dr. Miller’s research focuses on the use of technologies that will result in improved productivity, quality, longevity, and utilization of alfalfa for farmers, including improvements in disease and insect resistance, winter hardiness, yield, digestibility, and standability. In addition, he has experience with transgenic alfalfa and worked with the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance to foster coexistence among various stakeholders in the alfalfa industry.

Although the Plant Sciences Symposium is a student-run event, we would not be able to accomplish it without help from many others. Funding was graciously provided by Pioneer Hi-Bred International. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the faculty in our various departments.