University of Minnesota Pioneer Plant Sciences Symposium turns 10

On Thursday, March 23 and Friday, March 24, students in the Applied Plant Sciences (APS) graduate program hosted the 2017 University of Minnesota Pioneer Plant Sciences Symposium and Workshop. This two-day event brought a record of 250 scientists, students, and alumni from across the college, the university, and the United States to share and discuss research in the plant sciences.

The Symposium celebrated 10 years of the DuPont Pioneer Plant Sciences Symposium Series at the University of Minnesota. Since the first event in 2008, the series has grown to sponsor nearly 40 annual, student-run events around the world. Each year students in the APS graduate program form a planning committee that meets regularly throughout the year to plan and execute this event. As part of this year’s celebration,  56 CFANS alumni were invited who served on previous symposia planning committees. These alumni showcased the diversity of successful graduates from the APS program, representing industry and academia from as local as the Twin Cities to as distant as Hawai’i.

The Symposium kicked off on March 23rd with an afternoon workshop on Computational Tools and Plant Breeding. The first session, led by Karl Broman (University of Wisconsin - Madison), was an active learning class on reproducibility in scientific research. Rex Bernardo (University of Minnesota Twin Cities) then led the 1st Invitational Pro-Am Plant Breeding Tournament, a competition in which participants teamed up to breed a virtual barley variety. Teams learned lessons in the challenges faced by breeders to develop varieties that meet the needs of industry, while reducing inputs through disease resistance.

On March 24th, the main symposium event was held in the St. Paul Student Center. The theme, Domestication and Contemporary Plant Breeding, was a nod to the 10th anniversary: to continue to improve our crops, we must look to the lessons of history. There were five expert researchers invited from the field of plant domestication and evolution to share their research and discuss its impact on future plant breeding. The line-up included Briana Gross (University of Minnesota -Duluth), John Burke (University of Georgia), Allison Miller (Saint Louis University), Michael Purugganan (New York University), and John Doebley (University of Wisconsin - Madison).