Jun 30, 2010  |  Today's News |  ICMB

BLOOMINGTON, ILL—Two new doctoral candidates will further their education and research starting this fall semester at the University of Illinois, thanks to funding from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB).

The Ph.D. candidates in the University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), will work in corn genetics, an area which ICMB hopes to see continued interest among the sharpest minds in the industry.

Jozef Kokini, Associate Dean of Research, UI College of ACES, said, “ACES is delighted to be able to assist the ICMB with programs and resources that deliver against the needs of Illinois corn farmers. In this example, the University of Illinois is aiming to contribute to the delivery of the future workforce of the corn industry.”

Rita Mumm directs the Illinois Plant Breeding Center, which was established in 2008 to address the acute shortage of US plant breeders. Of the new fellowship program, Mumm said, “These fellowships demonstrate the commitment of the ICMB to agricultural research and the education of the next generation of scientists in maize improvement.”

“The ICMB understand that new MS and Ph.D. graduates, well-trained in genetics and agronomy and related disciplines, are essential to improvements such as enhanced value and increased production efficiency in the US corn crop of the next decade and beyond. We at the Illinois Plant Breeding Center are very grateful for the strong support of our outstanding students as we salute the exemplary vision of the ICMB,” Mumm continued.

Sarah Potts and C. Cole Hendrix were awarded the fellowships after an extensive application and selection process.

Sarah Potts will undertake her doctoral program in maize breeding under the direction of Rita Mumm, associate professor of quantitative genetics and plant breeding. Potts will investigate gene expression associated with stress tolerances in maize. After completing her degree, she plans to work as a plant breeder in the private sector and eventually become involved in an academic capacity.

C. Cole Hendrix's program will be under the supervision of Fred Below, professor of plant physiology. Hendrix will focus on improving nitrogen use efficiency in corn. After graduation, he is aiming for a career with a biotechnology company where he can apply both his business and scientific knowledge to meet the challenge of enabling crops to perform in ways not previously thought possible.

“Land grant universities have enjoyed a long history of educating the best and brightest researchers in agriculture,” said Jim Rapp, ICMB Chair, and farmer from Princeton, IL. “The Illinois Corn Marketing Board knows that successful public research programs, partnered with strong private sector work, will no doubt continue to turn out the type of knowledge and technology that makes corn farmers in Illinois some of the best in the world.”