Information about my work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
I was hired in 1992 to conduct research and instruction in plant breeding and plant genetics and horticulture. In 2004, I began serving a half-time role in research administration in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. This role increased to 75% in 2005 when I assumed the position of Executive Associate Dean and Associate Dean for Research. In 2006, my work became essentially full-time as Vice Dean and Associate Dean for Research, and in 2009 I served as Interim Dean. In 2010, I decided to return to my department full time. I have served as the Department Chair in Horticulture since 2011. Beginning in 2004, except for the period between mid-June, 2010 and July 1, 2011, I have had a least a 50% administrative appointment, although in many of those years it was at least 75% and often closer to 90%. My experiences in administration have been very fulfilling and I value the opportunity to learn and serve our campus. But I have yet to find an experience on campus as deeply meaningful as working closely with students in the learning process. This was largely responsible for my interest in returning to full-time faculty work, and it is still a primary motivator in my career.
Interaction with students on a regular basis forms what is for me a core principle: our primary job in serving the public is to make sure our students can obtain what they came to the university to get: a top-notch education. I see this as one of the primary reasons for being placed here by the people of Wisconsin. We have many objectives in this complex institution, but the one that focuses on getting it right for students is among my highest priorities. I regularly mentor undergraduate and graduate students in their research and I serve as an advisor to a number of undergraduate Horticulture majors.
I have also been heavily involved in research since my arrival here in 1992. I have had an active group of graduate and undergraduate students in my program throughout my career. My research focuses on vegetable breeding and genetics with an emphasis on plant secondary metabolites that have some potential value for human health and wellbeing. We have also bred numerous cultivars and inbred lines that have been used to make commercial hybrids. These are grown by farmers throughout the world. A portion of our germplasm is licensed through WARF and returns royalties to our program. We currently have over 75 active germplasm licenses. In 2014, we released two new carrot cultivars via a mechanism called open source. This means that the cultivars will remain in a “protected commons” and can be accessed, used, bred, saved, and sold by anyone as long as no restrictive license is put on the materials or their derivatives. Open source breeding has also become part of my laboratory’s research agenda, and one of my graduate students is currently investigating some of the biological questions surrounding the proportion of phenotypic and DNA sequence variation for key traits in carrot that still remain unprotected through patents and licenses.
In addition to formal administrative activities, I have been involved in many service activities for our campus. These include serving on the Biosecurity Task Force for six years, the Human Subjects Research Protection Advisory Committee for five years, the Research Policy Advisory Committee for five years, the newly-formed Campus Budget Allocation Committee, the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, The Biological Sciences Divisional Committee, the Graduate School Research Committee, the Huron Administrative Advisory Committee, the Campus Animal Care Reorganization Committee, the CALS Academic Planning Council, and a number of search committees, including the Chancellor Search Committee, the Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Search Committee, and as Chair of the Senior Associate Dean in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Search Committee and the Population, Quantitative, Computational, and Evolutionary Genetics Faculty Search Committee. I have also worked with colleagues in four departments to develop, propose, and implement a new named option in the Biology Major. This option, called Plant Biology, is a channel for students with interests in the plant sciences. The work on this option took two years and was a collaborative effort between my department and the departments of Plant Pathology, Botany, and Agronomy.
I have been fortunate to have had a hand in crafting new policies for our campus. One is a policy on scientific misconduct directed at supporting graduate students and postdoctoral research associates that I originally developed for CALS. This emerged directly from a research misconduct investigation, where graduate students were the first to notice irregularities in grant proposals but risked their funding and futures by bringing it forward. The goal of this policy was to protect those in our midst who are most vulnerable to the outcome of misconduct investigations: graduate students and research associates. This policy was formally adopted by our campus and appears on the graduate school’s website. A second area where I helped develop policy for the campus was on data ownership. I co-chaired the Data Ownership subcommittee of the Research Policy Advisory Committee. We authored the Data Stewardship, Access, and Retention policy, which was endorsed by the Graduate School and posted on their website in 2011.
I also have spent considerable effort working with students to develop a platform for community-building around the developing field of organic seed production. This work resulted in the first of its kind “Student Organic Seed Symposium,” which was held in August, 2012 in Vermont. Bill Tracy and I worked as advisers with three graduate students, Claire Luby, Adrienne Shelton, and Alex Lyon, who were the organizers of this event. Approximately 20 graduate students in plant breeding from around the country received scholarships to travel to Vermont for three days to participate in workshops, lectures, field trials, and field trips surrounding organic seeds. Speakers came from the public and private sector and included farmers and local producers. The community building that took place around this symposium was substantial has had an impact: the second annual Student Organic Seed Symposium was held in 2013 in Mt. Vernon, Washington, and had increased funding and student participation. The third was held in Ithaca, NY in August, 2014, and graduate students at UW-Madison will be hosting the fourth symposium in Madison in August, 2015.
My family came to the US in the early 20th century from Eastern Europe. They settled in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. My maternal grandparents had a grocery store and my paternal grandfather had a laundry business. It is a testament to the freedoms in this country that, through public education and opportunity, one can pursue their dreams. I am a fortunate beneficiary of these opportunities and of the guidance from many people throughout my life.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My parents supported and encouraged my participation in outdoor activities of all kinds, and through them I first learned about the natural world. They took us to farms in Wisconsin and Michigan, to the great lakes, to the Niagara escarpment, and to many destinations in the city: concerts, plays, libraries, museums, and to visit family. The father of my lifelong friend Andy Gremley took us on wilderness trips around the country beginning at about age 12. Robert “Rollfast” Gremley was a huge influence on our thinking about the differences between the natural and human-built worlds, and he challenged us to think about the fate of natural environments. He also played us folk music and jazz. Two of our junior high school teachers, Tim Olson and Peter Bodi, took us on long bicycle trips on weekends, and we combined our interest in physical activity and the outdoors.
I attended college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There I learned about plant science and, through the help of my academic adivsor Darrell Miller, got a job in a soybean breeding program that was run by Cecil Nickell. It was there that I was exposed to plant breeding as a scientific field and I became fascinated with the subject. I took Bob Lambert’s plant breeding class and was hooked. From Illinois I went to North Carolina State University’s Department of Crop Science to study with Tommy Carter (pictured below, left), and I completed a Master’s degree there under his direction. I returned to the midwest and the University of Wisconsin Department of Agronomy for my doctoral work, under the direction of Earl Gritton (pictured at right). I had always been interested in evolution and natural selection, and it was at Wisconsin that I developed a much better understanding of these subjects and their relationship to plant breeding. I moved to the University of Illinois to do postdoctoral work with Torbert Rocheford, and I was fortunate to be able to work on the Illinois Long Term Selection strains while there. As I began my faculty position at Wisconsin in 1992, I completed a BARD fellowship on tomato genetics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Rehovot, Israel, working with Dani Zamir and Ilan Paran.