4th Annual Plant Sciences Symposium

The UW-Madison Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council hosted the 4th Annual Plant Sciences Symposium Symposium titled Plants and Society: Integrating Food and Science in Today’s Culture¬†on Friday, October 3, 2014. The event was held in the Varsity room at Union South at UW-Madison. The symposium was also available via online streaming for those unable to attend in person or for those who would like to access videos of the presentations following the event. The symposium featured talks from five accomplished and dynamic scientists, as well as presentation from graduate students in the plant sciences at UW-Madison.

Dr. Robin Buell
Genomics and bioinformatics: Two paradigm changing disciplines in plant breeding and genetics

Robin Buell works in the Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University. Her work focuses on sequencing on functional genomics of rice, potatoes, maize, and switchgrass. Continuing work on refining the rice genome has allowed her lab to correct sequencing errors, discover the function of unknown genes, and explore if transposable elements can create new genes in rice. Dr. Buell’s lab was instrumental in generating and publishing the potato genome, and has found molecular markers corresponding to potatoes bred for different uses (such as potato chips and French fries). She has played a role in genotyping thousands of maize and switchgrass cultivars with high-throughput sequencing to aid in breeding for biofuel production.

Dr. Gil Gillespie

Gillbert Gillespie was a senior research associate and senior lecturer in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University. He currently is affiliated with the Harrisdale Homestead. Dr. Gillespie research and teaching have focused on the social aspects of food and agriculture and issues of agriculture, food and the environment. He has been especially interested in the social aspects of more local food systems in their particular ecological contexts and in how more local food systems can contribute to community development and promote sustainability.

Dr. Wendelyn Jones
New agricultural technologies: The intersection of science and global  regulations

Wendelyn Jones currently works for DuPont Crop Protection in Global Regulatory Affairs. She earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology at Vanderbilt University and was a post-doctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most recently, she established and lead the Global Policy and Scientific Affairs team at DuPont Pioneer. In this role, she developed a coordinated approach for new technology development and market introduction by leveraging the diverse background of team members in science, government affairs and industry affairs. She was recruited to DuPont Pioneer to serve as Director for Global Registration and Regulatory Affairs. Dr. Jones has also held various positions relating to safety and risk assessments and biotech policy. She was part of the FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on the Safety Assessment of Genetically Modified Foods. She has extensive experience in international negotiations and served on various delegations including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Codex Alimentarius Commission Ad-Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology, and the OECD Working Group on Harmonization of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology. She has been an invited speaker on topics including the role of scientific outreach in new technology development, publication planning and risk assessment.

Dr. Paul Mitchell
Biotechnology, neonicotinoids, and organic agriculture: An economist’s perspective on current debates

Paul Mitchell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. He received his B.A. in History at Iowa State University, his M.A. in Classics at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his Ph.D. in Economics at Iowa State University. Dr. Mitchell’s current research and extension outreach programs focus on the farm-level economics of crop production, emphasizing pest management, risk management, and specialty crop economics. He has been productive in pest management, with a variety of publications examining various aspects of insect and weed management, including transgenic crops, invasive insects, management of pest resistance, and estimation of pest damage functions. His risk management work focuses on the use of insurance and federal programs to manage farm income risk and to encourage adoption of more efficient technologies. His research on economic issues in specialty crop production examines changes in potato demand due to the growing importance of organic and other specialty types of potatoes and a new method to estimate how management affects the size distribution of harvested potato tubers. Lastly, his outreach program in risk management includes both crop insurance and various other federal programs, including disaster assistance and commodity support programs.

Keynote: Dr. Ivan Ingelbrecht
Innovations in agriculture: The case of crop biotechnology

Ivan Ingelbrecht obtained his Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Biology at University of Ghent in Belgium in 1993. As a Ph.D. student, he published one of the first cases of transgene silencing in plants. Then as a Research Associate at Texas A&M from 1996-2000, he produced virus and herbicide resistant transgenic sugarcane plants and developed, together with colleagues, a genetic transformation system for grapefruit. He since has 12 years working experience in sub-Saharan Africa, first as a post-doc and later as Head of the Biotechnology Laboratory at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria. Here, Dr. Ingelbrecht developed genetic transformation systems for the tropical crops cassava and black eye pea and for molecular markers diversity and was also involved in research management and priority setting for the Institute. In 2010, he joined the UN Industrial Development Organization and the Institute Plant Biotechnology Overseas at University of Ghent as Program Manager of the International Industrial Biotechnology Network.

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 DuPoint Pioneer and the Associated Students of Madison. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the faculty in our various departments.