The Science of Plant Breeding and Genetics: Graduate StudentScientistProfile
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The Science of Plant Breeding and Genetics: Graduate StudentScientistProfile


My name is Mary Happ, I am from Homer Illinois, and I am a doctorate research assistant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. So my research is focused in yield stability in soybean and what that means is different varieties will react kind of differently to different environments in terms of how much the soybean will yield. So my project is focused on looking at the underlying genes effecting this across environments in Nebraska as well as a larger set of soybeans in a public database across the entire Midwest. And comparing those two to look at their similarities and differences and kind of get a handle on what this trait looks like genetically. So I’m trying to solve the problem of the fact that breeders are not able to have a early identification method for yield stability that is cultivars yielding differently in different locations. We’re trying to find cultivars that are easily predictable in locations. We know how they are going to yield. We know that in good years they will yield well and in bad years they will also yield pretty well. So far breeders don’t have a chance to do this till the end of the breeding process, there’s not many soybeans left in their selection process and they can’t really push it any earlier because you can’t grow tens to thousands of lines across a lot of environments without using up a lot of resources. So if we can find the genetics behind it we can provide a genetic testing method where they can apply it to a lot more lines earlier in the process and hopefully have a better end project. So the sequencer is really the most vital part of research some would say. If you’re looking for genetic signatures or looking for specific genes related to a trait, you can’t do that without looking at the DNA sequence so it’s really great that in my lab I have a sequencer that I can use in-house. I can learn directly about the technology instead of sending it to another university for that data and really get to be immersed in that process What excites me about my work is that I’m really able to delve into multiple fields at once. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like doing monotonous tasks. Same thing everyday, I’m able to be out in the field. I grew up on a farm so that’s really important to me to still have that connection to the land and I’m able to use the newest high tech genomic technology in the lab and then on the other hand I also get to dabble a little bit in computer science as well. So the most excitement I gain is from bringing all these different fields together to create something better for the future. I would encourage kids to pursue a career in science because science to a lot of people seems like something that’s very robotic or not much feeling behind it. But when it really gets down to it it’s learning about what’s beyond the surface beauty in the world to me. You know you can look at a flower or plant and sure that looks beautiful and great but when you know the mechanisms behind what’s happening it really kind of adds another level to your appreciation to the world around us.

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