Vegetable crop breeding and genetics.
I am a plant breeder working on the improvement of vegetable crops for traits including disease resistance, productivity, flavor and quality. My objectives are to discover the genetic basis of important traits, model the practical use of new technologies in an applied variety development program, and release disease-resistant, productive cultivars with high consumer appeal.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I spend time with my family whether at home or exploring the outdoor opportunities that the Finger Lakes region has to offer. I love hiking, camping and fishing, and feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful area. At home, I enjoy cooking, reading and watching movies.
What are your current outreach/extension projects?
I have a 40% extension appointment and look forward to connecting with vegetable growers, gardeners and consumers, not only to disseminate research results but also to gain insight to better inform my breeding objectives. I also enjoy teaching and plan to find ways to engage with K-12 students to increase agricultural awareness, especially knowledge of plant breeding.
What are three adjectives people might use to describe you?
Curious, analytical, kind.
What (specifically) brought you to Cornell CALS?
There is a rich history of vegetable breeding at Cornell, and I feel honored to continue this tradition. I am also inspired by the incredible diversity of research taking place at CALS and having impact around the globe, from basic to applied.
What do you think is important for people to understand about your field?
Modern plant breeding is an extension of activities that humans have been performing for thousands of years, ever since the first crop species were domesticated. Today, plant breeding is conducted not only by scientists and professional breeders but also by farmers, gardeners and hobbyists around the globe.
Why did you feel inspired to pursue a career in this field?
Before I really knew plant breeding was a profession, I loved reading seed catalogs and planning what tomato varieties I’d be growing in my garden the next summer. When I was in college, I was fortunate to receive mentorship and gain exposure to the discipline through an undergraduate position in a root vegetable breeding program. I realized that I could turn my fascination into a career.
What’s the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve discovered about Cornell and/or Ithaca so far?
I lived here for almost six years as a graduate student and am still constantly discovering new trails and beautiful natural areas I never knew existed.
If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve?
Wild relatives of tomato have been used as a source of many important traits in tomato breeding, including essentially all of the disease resistance genes deployed in modern varieties. There are undoubtedly many more genes of horticultural interest waiting to be discovered in the genomes of wild relatives.
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