Synapsis

Synapsis is the academic and social organization of the faculty, graduate students, and alumni of the Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. Synapsis members also participates in the SIPS Graduate Council. The objectives of Synpasis are to stimulate professional and social interaction among members of the Cornell community interested in plant breeding, and to improve the quality of plant breeding education at Cornell.

Synapsis sponsors an annual symposium.  View presentation videos on our YouTube playlist.

2021 Synapsis Virtual Symposium: Cultivation & Culture

10th anniversary symposium: April 23, 2021 will explore the past, present and future of plant breeding.

Soliciting applications for Graduate Student Speakers.

More information.

Vegetable seed sale fundraiser

Every spring, Syapsis raises money to support the organizations activities by selling seeds developed in Cornell's vegetable breeding programs.  In 2021, all sales will be online. View varieties offerred in 2021 and order seeds online.

2020-2021 Synapsis Leadership

  • Synapsis Leadership Committee (in alphabetical order): Mohamed El-Walid, Merritt Khaipho-Burch, Will Stafstrom, and Seren Villwock
  • Treasurer: Jack Fabrizio 
  • Synapsis Symposium chairs: Aimee Schulz & Taylor Ferebee 
  • Synapsis Symposium committee: Marlie Lukach, Ruth Epstein, Sarah Jensen, Savanah Dale
  • SIPS Diversity & Inclusion committee: Ellie Taagen & Will Stafstrom
  • Social committee: Anna Hermanns, Marlie Lukach, Savanah Dale, Seren Villwock, Elise Tomaszewski 
  • Professional Development committee: Evan Long, Karl Kunze
  • Graduate student research presentations: Ruth Epstein, George Stack, Anna Hermanns, Savanah Dale 
  • Seed sales: Ricky Tegtmeier, Mathew Siemon
  • GPSA Representatives: Ruth Epstein, Ricky Tegtmeier

Synapsis Symposium

Bringing Back Biodiversity

9th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

When: Friday, April 17, 2020; 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Where: Virtually, via Zoom webinar.  Registrants will be sent a Zoom link to the webinar the week of the symposium.

The theme for the 2020 symposium is “Bringing Back Biodiversity.” Modern plant breeding activities largely emphasize improvement of monocultures that are derived from relatively narrow gene pools, but this approach is changing partially because of advances in affordable sequencing technology and widespread interest in maintaining sustainable agroecosystems that leverage natural genetic diversity to express desirable traits. We are interested in hearing more about efforts to collect and maintain germplasm of wild and closely-related relatives of useful plants, and how these exotic varieties are practically incorporated into breeding programs during cultivar development. Discussion of other novel approaches that utilize diversity to improve plant traits is welcomed. 

Please register here!

Schedule 

8:30-8:45 a.m.
Welcome and Introductions

  • Merritt Burch, Symposium committee chair
  • Jason Rauscher, Corteva Agriscience
  • Sponsor video, Agronomix

8:45-9:45 a.m.
Avraham Levy, The Weizmann Institute of Science: 
Targeted recombination for precise plant breeding

9:45-10 a.m.
Estefania Tavares Flores, West Virginia University:   
Genome editing of Solanum cheesmaniae via CRISPR/Cas9: De novo domestication to harness salinity resistance 

10:05-10:30 a.m.
Coffee break

10:30-11:30 a.m.
Emily Ziemke, Corteva Agriscience: 
Plant Breeding for Long Term Genetic Gain

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Elizabeth Kellogg, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center:
Unexpected diversity of grass abscission zones  

12:30-1:30 p.m.
Lunch break

1:30-1:45 p.m.
Keo Corak, University of Wisconsin-Madison:  
Genomic prediction for screening and selection from a carrot  (Daucus carota) germplasm collection

1:45-2:45 p.m.
Paul Gepts, University of California-Davis: 
Eat more beans! Phylogenetic and environmental origins of domestication and agronomic traits in common bean 

2:45-3:45 p.m.
Chelsea Specht, Cornell University:
The Critical Nature of Diversity: Thinking Holistically About Plant Form and Function

3:45-4 p.m.
Coffee break

4-5 p.m.
Emily Spiegel, University of Vermont Law School:
Legal dimensions of bringing back biodiversity

Sponsors

This symposium is a member of the Plant Sciences Symposia Series, supported by Corteva Agriscience.

Common Plants for Uncommon Goals

8th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

When: Friday, April 12th, 2019; 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Where: Emerson 135, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY or via Zoom webinar

The theme for the 2019 symposium is “Common Plants for Uncommon Goals.” There are a vast number of alternative applications for common crops, but how do we utilize the diversity of knowledge in plant breeding to explore uncommon use cases? Most breeding efforts have focused on classical traits such as yield and disease resistance, with little room for intrepid investigation. Nevertheless, this focus on classical traits has produced a large number of genomic resources that can now be used in novel explorations.

Please register here (free).

This symposium is a member of the Plant Sciences Symposia Series, supported by Corteva Agriscience.

Schedule

8:30: Breakfast

9:00: Opening remarks

9:15: Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul, University of Florida, “Feeding Martians: Space exploration in plant biology”

10:15: Coffee break

10:30: Dr. Larry Smart, Cornell University, “From grey area to gold rush: Establishing a long-term breeding program for hemp”

11:30: Dr. Allison Berke, The Good Food Institute, “Plant-based meat and plant proteins: Engineering challenges and product design”

12:30: Lunch

1:30: Brandon Schlautman, The Land Institute, “Breeding common plants for uncommon goals: Perennializing our grain crops and diversifying our cropping systems”

2:30: Dr. Lane Selman, Oregon State University, “Culinary Breeding Network: Building community among breeders, farmers, chefs, retailers & eaters to create better varieties for all”

3:30: Coffee break

3:45: Dr. Bobby Williams, Corteva Agriscience, “Improving soybean seed composition with genome editing”

Links:

Animalia to Plantae

7th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

When: Friday, March 9th, 2018; 8:15 AM - 5:00 PM
Where: 148 Stocking Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY or via Zoom webinar

We are pleased to invite all of you to join us at "Animalia to Plantae", the 7th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium. In the genomics era, the barriers between species focused genetics are eroding and innovations in genetics and genomics are broadly applicable across kingdoms. Plant and animal breeding have been advancing on separate tracks for decades but recently have begun to converge. How can plant breeders integrate advances and traditional practices in animal breeding and model species genetics to face the agricultural challenges of the 21st century?

Schedule

 9:00Dr. John Hickey, University of Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute- Integration of plant and animal breeding - harvest the many synergies

10:00: Jarrett Man, University of Massachusetts Amherst- The molecular evolution of developmental regulators: leveraging basic understanding for
improved crop yield

10:15: Coffee break

10:30Dr. Philipp Messer, Cornell University, Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology- Can CRISPR gene drives spread in the wild?

11:30Dr. Jack Dekkers, Iowa State University, Department of Animal Science- The use of genomics in animal breeding

12:30: Lunch

1:30: Daljit Singh, Kansas State University- Phenomics-enabled genetic dissection of lodging in wheat through unmanned aerial systems

1:45Dr. Radu Totir, Dupont Pioneer- Leveraging cross-functional applied science to enable high throughput genetic evaluation systems

2:45Dr. Trudy Mackay, North Carolina State University, Department of Genetics- Charting the Genotype-Phenotype Map: Lessons from Drosophila

3:45: Coffee break

4:00Dr. Steve Rounsley, Genus, Senior Director Applied Genomics- A career odyssey: Animalia to Plantae aka Arabidopsis to pigs

Seed to Start-Up

6th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

When: Friday, March 10th, 2017; 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Where: 135 Emerson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY or via Zoom webinar

We are pleased to invite all of you to join us at "Seed to Start-Up", the 6th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium. The start-up business mentality is broadly characterized by small size, risk taking, and innovative thinking, and may be beneficial to plant breeding efforts. This symposium features speakers addressing how small plant breeding companies start and find success in a marketplace dominated by larger breeding companies, how large companies evaluate, acquire, and collaborate with start-ups, and how researchers start work on largely unknown and novel crops.

Schedule:

8:30 AM: Breakfast

9:00 AM: Welcome address: Tabare Abadie

9:15 AMDr. Charles Yarish, University of Connecticut - Seaweed aquaculture in Northeast U.S.A. for production, ecosystem services and strain development

10:15 AM: Coffee break

10:30 AMDr. Neil Hausmann, DuPont Pioneer - In pursuit of predictive ag: A DuPont Pioneer perspective

11:30 AM: Q&A panel

12:30 PM: Lunch break

1:30 PMMatthew Goldfarb, Fruition Seeds

2:30 PMDr. Steven Cannon, Iowa State University - Applying modern breeding approaches to the North American “potato bean” (Apios americana), and other underutilized crops

3:30 PM: Coffee break

3:45 PMDr. Allen Van Deynze, The Seed Biotechnology Center and the Plant Breeding Center, University of California Davis - Common goals and uncommon collaborations

4:45 PM: Social hour

Breeding for the Emerging Global Middle Class

5th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

Friday, March 11th, 2016
8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
135 Emerson Hall
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Whereas yield has been the primary focus of breeding efforts historically and globally, this year's symposium will explore the complexities and opportunities of breeding for the changing dietary demands of the emerging global middle class.

Schedule:

8:30 AM: Breakfast
9:00 AM: Welcome address
9:15 AM: Frank Mangan, Extension Associate Professor, Stockbridge School of Agriculture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst - Growing immigrant markets in the Northeastern US: Opportunities and challenges for vegetable breeders
10:15 AM: Coffee break
10:30 AM: Adam Famoso, Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University - Opportunities, Challenges, and Strategies for Incorporating Molecular Markers into an Applied Rice Breeding Program​
11:30 AM: Rich Ozminkowski, Senior Manager of Agriculture Research, Heinz - Variety needs of a globalized tomato processing industry to supply the emerging middle class
12:30 PM: Lunch break
1:30 PM: Alison Van Eenennaam, Animal Genomics and Biotechnology Cooperative Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis - Animal biotechnology and the livestock revolution
2:30 PM: Reid Rice, Research Scientist, DuPont Pioneer - Plenish® - The reinvention of soybean oil
3:30 PM: Coffee break
3:45 PM: Per Pinstrup-Andersen, H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy, Cornell University - Breeding priorities to meet the food demand and nutritional needs of the emerging middle class with emphasis on Asia 

Domestication: The Crossroads of Cultural and Natural Diversity

4th Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

This year's symposium will focus on the ways in which modern crop diversity, the raw material for selection by breeders, is shaped by the intersection of the specific histories of culturally-mediated selection (e.g. culturally valued traits and agronomic practices) and the biology and population dynamics of the crop plants and their wild progenitors.

Schedule:

   8:30 AM: Breakfast
   9:00 AM: Welcome address
   9:15 AM: Adam Boyko, Assistant Professor in Biomedical Sciences        at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
             Contrasting patterns of genetic diversity between village dogs
             and purebred dogs
   
10:15 AM: Coffee break
   10:30 AM: Bob Meeley, Senior Research Scientist in Trait Discovery    and Technologies at DuPont Pioneer
             Discovery approaches within an industry context: how can
             crop native traits help inform the forward problem?
    
11:30 AM: Karl Zimmerer, Professor and Head of the Department          of Geography at Pennsylvania State University
             Agrobiodiversity as coupled systems: interactions of cultural
             and natural diversity amid global environmental and
             socioeconomic changes
    
12:30 PM: Lunch break
    1:30 PM: Nyree Zerega, Director of the Graduate Program in Plant       Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University, Director of           the Nancy Poole Rich Herbarium at the Chicago Botanic Garden
             Tale of two underutilized tree crops: Where did they come 
             from and where are they going?
   
 2:30 PM: Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, Associate Professor of Plant Sciences     at the University of California Davis
             Evolutionary genetics of maize adaptation: domestication and 
             beyond
   
 3:30 PM: Coffee break
    3:45 PM: Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Director of the Hopi Cultural               Preservation Office
             
Hopi corn: The soul of Hopi culture

Breeding Innovations & Policy: Considering Diverse Stakeholders

3rd Annual Cornell University Graduate Student Plant Breeding Symposium

April 25, 2014
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST
135 Emerson Hall,
Cornell University, Ithaca NY

As plant breeders, we are charged with the task of addressing challenges unique to our time.  Intellectual property laws and increasing crop diversity are two issues our community is currently facing.   Further confounding this undertaking, these challenges are not global but instead vary depending on the subset of the population in question.  In order to adequately address these matters, breeding innovations and corresponding policies must be implemented.  This symposium will begin to address the complexity of the task at hand by bringing experts in these different fields together.  

Featuring presentations from:

  • Sheri Breen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota-Morris
  • Kristina Hubbard, Policy Coordinator for the Organic Seed Alliance
  • Irwin Goldman, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Andrew Torrance, Professor of Law at the University of Kansas
  • Martha Mutschler-Chu, Professor Cornell University
  • Dennis.Byron [at] Pioneer.com (Dennis Byron), Vice President, Crop Product Development at Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc

Resources for current students

Bias Reporting

  • Bias Reporting: report a bias incident and learn what constitutes bias

Mental and Physical Health

Graduate School Programs and Resources

  • Cornell Graduate School: Academic Resources, Career Resources, Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion, and more
  • Travel Grants: apply for funding for travel to a professional conference at which you are presenting or for funding to travel as part of thesis/dissertation research [available to research degree students only]
  • Graduate and Professional Student Assembly: Cornell’s community of graduate and professional students to address non-academic issues of common concern

Meet us!

Current students in the Graduate Field of Plant Breeding

grad student examining rice seed head

Plant Breeding Graduate Student Handbook

Welcome to the Field of Plant Breeding. The Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics (PLBRG) at Cornell University is composed of numerous facilities and faculty members housed at several different locations. For most issues, the Section is equivalent to a Department elsewhere at Cornell and at other institutions. The organizational structure is as follows, from largest to smallest:

  • Cornell University
  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)
  • School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS)
  • Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics

SIPS was first established in 2014 to foster cross disciplinary collaboration among its various Sections, which include; Plant Biology, Horticulture, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, and Soil and Crop Sciences.

The Field offers qualified students the opportunity to obtain an advanced graduate degree in a Master of Science (M.S.) degree program, the Masters of Science/Doctor of Philosophy (M.S./Ph.D) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program.

Arrival

Newly admitted graduate students should correspond with the Director of Graduate Studies in their field to clarify program details. Upon arrival on campus, students should report to their major advisor (if you have one), the GFA, and the DGS. New graduate students should take the responsibility of meeting professors, other graduate students, office staff, technicians; and greenhouse, and field staff. Students should also become familiar with campus buildings, laboratories, and staff offices. The DGS, as well as other faculty members and staff, can provide assistance to become familiar with University, Graduate School, and Section policies. An orientation program for all incoming graduate students is held during the week of registration in January and August.

This handbook will help you understand how the section operates, what is expected of you, and what you may expect from the section. The faculty, DGS, and the Section chair have an open-door policy and make every effort to address student needs. This handbook provides supplemental information that applies specifically to the Field of Plant Breeding and should be used in conjunction with information published by the Graduate School. Please feel free to ask questions as you adjust to your new surroundings.

Desk Assignments

The section has several rooms in Bradfield Hall set aside for graduate students to share, and a desk will be made available for each graduate student upon their arrival. Assignments will be made by the GFA. Students on a Leave of Absence or with space elsewhere (such as in Geneva, or have lab/desk space) may be asked to forfeit their desk space to others, if there is a need for space when new students arrive. Students should not “take over” another desk area while they are here; and they must empty and clean their assigned desk prior to departure.

Major Advisor & Special Committee

The faculty person who directs a student’s thesis work is usually considered the major advisor/chairperson of his/her special committee. This advisor identified upon your arrival, unless you are initially doing rotations. If a student is doing rotations, then the DGS will be their chairperson. The chair is a primary mentor who will guide the student. The Special Committee Chair should be recorded with the Graduate School within the first 3-weeks of admission. The Special Committee Selection and Change form should be used to assign the chairperson. This can be done on-line at the Graduate School's form page or directly through the ‘Student Center’ website.

Other members of the special committee represent the minor fields chosen (one additional faculty member/field for a M.S. degree and two additional faculty members/fields for a Ph.D.), plus any additional members students wish to add.

Choosing a Special Committee

The Special Committee should be chosen by the end of the first semester at Cornell for M.S. students. Ph.D. students need to have their Special Committee selection done by the end of their third semester. Selection of the minor members is best done in consultation with the major advisor/chairperson. Feel free to meet with, and interview, various members of the graduate faculty before making a decision. Common goals and interests should be discussed.

One minor member is required for an M.S. and two for a Ph.D. degree.

The selection of a major chair and other committee members should be done through “Student Center”.

Right to Know

Federal and New York State law mandates and the university requires that all graduate students and employees attend an orientation on the “Right to Know” Act. This introduces the law, the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), general toxicology and laboratory safety. You will receive a memo with times and locations of the orientation meetings. You will also receive a Safety Guideline checklist, mandated by the University, and you are required to return the checklist to the Section safety representative. Safety Information notebooks are available for your reference in the main offices and in the Section laboratories. You will receive an index to the notebook as a quick guide to its contents.

Laboratories and Equipment

Most research projects and professors have one or more laboratories with research equipment. Students will normally use of their advisor’s laboratory and equipment. To use other equipment in the Section, permission should be obtained from the professor involved. Laboratory space is assigned by the major advisor. Equipment, glassware, reagents, etc. are generally purchased to use in specific laboratories. They should not be transferred to other locations unless approved by the faculty member in charge. Before using laboratory equipment, students are expected to obtain permission and instruction from the faculty member in charge or his/her designate. Each student is responsible to keep their work areas clean. Laboratory supplies or other purchases should be approved by the student’s major advisor. Disposal of toxic materials must follow proper safety procedures. See the appropriate Radioactive Material Permit Holder about use and disposal of radioactive materials.

Growth Chambers

Growth chambers, both reach-in and walk-in, are available for research use. Fees are paid by the research project and professor involved. At the beginning of each semester a meeting is held to establish growth chamber assignments. Be sure to clear the availability of funds with your major professor before reserving growth chamber space. There is high demand for this and the Section makes every effort to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Greenhouses

Requests for Section greenhouse space should be approved by your major advisor beforehand. Guterman space requests are made through the greenhouse superintendent. Greenhouse space at Kenneth Post Lab (KPL) is arranged through the greenhouse manager.

Field Research

Requests for experimental field plots are made early each spring and must carry the endorsement of the major advisor. Policies and procedures will be explained at an orientation and training session for field research.

Computing and Multimedia Facilities

Computer support for personal computers and Section-owned equipment is requested via a Remedy Incident Ticket.  New graduate students will need to have an anti-virus program installed and have their computer scanned, before they can get on our wired network. This process can take a half day or so. Please be prepared to leave your computer in the IT office (Rice 105) for this procedure. RedRover wireless can be accessed without any scanning.

Security

While campus is a generally a safe place, theft does occur and we urge you to be mindful of your and others property. Keep offices and valuables locked up, and secure windows upon leaving for the day. Shut down computers, especially after using email. Keep backup copies of all your important work. Keep graduate student office doors closed at all times.

Section Hours

Working hours for Section staff (offices and facilities) are: Monday through Thursday, 8:00 am-4:30 pm; and Friday, 8:00 am-3:30 pm. Some offices such as the greenhouses, farm, or orchards may vary. Laboratories and graduate student offices are usually accessible 24-hours a day.

State Fleet vehicles

Visit the Facilities and Campus Services website to view the Fleet Policy Manual. Fleet cars are available for official use. Permission from the major advisors is required. Charges are made on a mileage or per day basis to Section accounts; an account number is required when reserving a fleet vehicle. Reserve a car or van as early as possible; and should the need arise, cancel immediately to avoid a charge (24-hours prior to departure). The actual driver must pick up the fleet car. Students must have a valid driver’s license, be registered at the Fleet Garage, and be pre-approved by the Risk Management Office. In order to do so, fill out a form available on-line at the Fleet Transporation Services website.

“Authorized Drivers: A member of the Cornell community who has been authorized by an operating unit to drive one of its vehicles for university-related business.” (Use of Cornell Vehicles, Policy 3.4). Fleet vehicles cannot be used for personal business nor may the vehicle be used in commuting to and from an individual’s place of residence. Members of an employee’s family, or other unauthorized passengers not associated with the University, may not ride in a fleet vehicle. For clarification and/or policy exceptions re: passengers contact the Contract College Fleet Supervisor (607-255-3247).

Note: If the vehicle is involved in an accident, please obtain complete information. Use the form enclosed in the book in the glove compartment for the preliminary report. Notify Fleet Services immediately in the event of any accident.

Farm Equipment

Farm equipment can be used upon approval of the farm/orchard manager after a short vehicle-safety-training course.

Keys

Keys are available for various Section facilities based on need. Key requests should be directed to our Administrative Manager, Leslie Larsen.

Purchasing

During the course of your graduate study it will be necessary to obtain various items essential to your research. Be sure to check with your major advisor for availability of funds and an account number before placing an order. Items may be obtained in a number of ways. Check with your major advisor or one of the sections accounts representatives for catalogs. It is important to plan ahead for your needs.

Copy Machine Privileges

Graduate students who have received approval from their advisor may use the copy machine for materials that are connected with their assistantship assignments and/or thesis research. If the student is a TA for a Section course, copies may be made for that purpose.

Copying of books is not permitted on the section copiers; these machines are not designed to do so and could cause the glass to break. Use one of the copiers in Mann Library. Please do not violate copyright laws.

Mail

Mailboxes are in 240 Emerson Hall. Upon arrival you will have a box assigned to students. Mail is sorted daily. Please have only university-related business delivered here. UPS is preferred for package deliveries, not the United States Postal Service (USPS).

  • Due to on-campus postal regulations, a Postal Change of Address notice cannot be used to forward your mail.
  • Note: The Section cannot forward your mail. Please plan ahead and provide your contacts with your new address.

Postage

The Section does not provide postage for personal use, such as reprint requests, position inquiries, mailing of resumes to prospective employers, etc.

Leave of Absence

A leave of absence can be granted for personal or medical reasons, but the process is different for each type of leave. A health leave of absence requires filing with Gannett Health Services. More information is available at Gannett Health Services website. 

The maximum number of years allowed for leave of absence is four. A student who takes a leave of absence relinquishes the access to campus facilities and personnel that normally accompanies student status. For more information see the Code of Legislation or obtain information directly from the Field Graduate School Representative, 143 Caldwell Hall or your Plant Breeding Grad Field Assistant.

In Absentia

In absentia status provides an opportunity for graduate students to engage in approved study in a location at least 100 miles away from the University’s Ithaca campus during the academic year, while continuing to work under the guidance of the Special Committee. Students can earn 1 registration unit RU) if the arrangement enhances the student’s program of study. For more information see the Code of Legislation or obtain information directly from the Graduate School Representative, 143 Caldwell Hall or the Plant Breeding GFA.