Boy Scout Plant Sciences Badge Day

Last Saturday, Aug. 20, Kevin Cope, a graduate student in Jean-Michel Ané’s lab, organized the second annual Plant Science Merit Badge Workshop for Boy Scouts. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council (PSGSC) with help from PSGSC president Chris D’Angelo, a graduate student in Irwin Goldman’s lab. Boy Scouts from across Wisconsin and parts of Illinois attended, and 48 scouts earned the badge. More than 15 graduate student volunteers from several different departments and programs helped with the workshop.

Scouts attending the workshop took part in lectures, hands-on experiments, and tours of the D.C. Smith Greenhouse and the Allen Centennial Gardens. Said one parent who attended the workshop, “My son commented on how much they learned and came home in very good spirits after a long day. We’ve been to many different merit badge workshops…[This] was one of the best run and highest-quality workshops we’ve seen.”

This is the second time Kevin, who serves as vice president of PSGSC, has organized this workshop with the student council. They plan to continue offering this merit badge workshop in the future so that young men interested in plant science can learn more and enjoy the facilities that UW–Madison has to offer. They are also interested in expanding the workshop to involve young women and welcome ideas about how to do that. Contact Kevin at with any questions or suggestions.



PSGSC Journal Club for 2/15

Hello Plant Scientists!

Computational thinking is a widely applicable analytical skill with potential to improve the way we approach scientific inquiries. Jeannette Wing (2006, 2008) presents a case for actively developing this ability, which combines abstract thought processes from mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Please join us Monday, Feb. 15 at noon in Moore 473, where Schuyler Smith will lead a discussion on the what, how and why of computational thinking.

The forecast is intellectually stimulating with a 100% chance of coffee and cookies.

We look forward to seeing you there!


Wing 2008

Wing 2006

PSGSC Journal Club for 2/1

Welcome back! The temperatures may have dropped, but Journal Club is coming in hot!

Do you believe in MAGIC? Please joinus to discuss the use of Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-cross populations in fine mapping, novel QTL identification, and applied breeding. In their 2013 paper, Bandillo et al. describe the development and use of MAGIC populations in rice. These populations offer plant scientists a valuable new tool with advantages over traditional QTL mapping and GWAS, as well as a convenient excuse to justify your results with “magic.” Hope to see you there!

Bandillo et al. 2013

Plant Sciences Journal Club for 12/7

Greetings Plant Scientists!

Please join us next Monday at noon in Moore 473 to talk about the origins of modern tomato.

We all know modern crops went through a process of domestication, which is considered the first stage in plant breeding. Even though tomato is one of the most studied vegetables worldwide and is considered a high value crop, little is known about how human selection altered its genome to make it 100 bigger than its wild ancestor! Lin et al. (2014) used genome sequences to provide evidence for the changes in the tomato genome due to domestication and improvement.

Carlos Arbizu will lead the discussion around this impressive study which provided key insights into the (beneficial as well detrimental) effects of human selection on the world most-valued vegetable.

Lin et al. 2014

We hope to see you next week!


Plant Sciences Journal Club for 11/23

Greetings Plant Scientists!

Please join us next Monday at noon in Moore 473 to talk about big data in molecular genetics.

As we are acquiring more and more diverse and massive data (genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, shovelomics,…), we now get to peek at the stunning complexity of processes underlying the elaboration of a particular trait. Ritchie et al. (2015) recently published a review about the leading-edge methods addressing the issue of integrating different types of data to provide a realistic picture of genotype-phenotype relationships. After our last discussion in Journal club about components of traits, let’s take a step further back and contemplate an even bigger picture…

Scott Stelpflug will lead this discussion around the ambitious path of deciphering genotype-to-phenotype processes using big data!

Ritchie et al. 2015

We hope to see you next week!


Plant Sciences Journal Club for 11/16

Greetings Plant Scientists!

Please join us next Monday at noon in Moore 473 to talk about root architecture and precision phenotyping.

We are all well aware that high-quality, high-throughput phenotyping now lags behind genotyping. The review article by Kuijken et al. (2015) discusses current semi- and fully-automated root system architecture (RSA) phenotyping platforms and determines how well they have been able to increase genetic gain for crop genetic improvement. In addition to discussing the article, we hope to have an open conversation about what phenotyping hardware and software others have used and how successful these various systems were at capturing – or resolving – traits of interest.

Shelby Ellison will lead this discussion around the pros and cons of various root architecture phenotyping platforms, but also discuss the opportunities offered by precision phenotyping for plant breeding in general!

Kuijken et al. 2015

We hope to see you next week!


Plant Sciences Journal Club for 11/9

Greetings Plant Scientists!

Please join us next today at noon in Moore 473 as we will talk about (self-)deception in science! 

As scientists, we are always on the hunt for new, interesting, and profound results. Most journals are heavily focused on positive, rather than negative, results, and we design and conduct experiments in the hopes of finding something new. The downside of our search for meaning amongst noise is that we sometimes see patterns where they do not really exist. This article from a recent issue of Nature highlights the ways in which scientists can introduce bias into their research, as well as some ways to avoid doing so.

Whatever your field, come and talk about your own experience and share your opinions with us next week in this discussion, which will be led by Joe Gage.

You can access the article through the following link:


Plant Sciences Journal Club for 11/2

Greetings Plant Scientists!

Please join us next Monday at noon in Moore 473 to talk about the domestication and diffusion of maize landraces.

Earlier this semester, we talked about the effect of breeding on genetic diversity in maize. Now Manfred Mayer will go further back in time and present the findings of Hufford et al. (2013), who shed light upon the domestication and spread of maize from its wild ancestor, teosinte.

A single event of maize domestication from teosinte was dated back to about 9,000 years ago. However, there remained one interesting paradox: maize cultivars that are most closely related to Balsas teosinte are found mainly in the Mexican highlands where Balsas teosinte does not grow! The paradox was resolved by showing that the surpassing relationship between maize populations of the Mexican highlands and Balsas teosinte was caused by introgression from another subspecies of Zea mays, Mexicana teosinte (van Heerwaarden et al. 2011). Hufford et al. (2013) describe the gene flows that still occur between Mexicana teosinte and domesticated maize.

Hufford et al. 2013 van Heerwaarden et al. 2011

Manfred will guide us through this great example of investigation, built up over the years, on maize history.

We hope to see you next week!


Plant Sciences Symposium Seeking Proposals

(as seen on eCALS)

The Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council (PSGSC) is in the midst of planning the annual UW-Madison Plant Sciences Symposium. This fall our symposium will be entitled Plants and Society: Integrating Food and Science in Today’s Culture. The theme of the the integration of multiple disciplines and perspectives in addressing research inquires related to agriculture.

This year we are adding four 15-minute presentations to the schedule. PSGSC invites students from departments related to agriculture to join us in creating another great symposium. This is a great opportunity for students to work on professional presentation skills as well as receive recognition from the UW-Madison community, and the larger international audience that the symposium attracts via the live webinar.

The symposium will be held on Friday, October 3rd in Union South. We would like to give everyone an opportunity to apply for the chance to be one of our featured speakers in this year’s symposium. Student presenters will be given 15 minutes to talk about their work, followed by 5 minutes for questions.

To apply please send a brief abstract (max 300 words) describing the research you would like to present and a current CV to After review by the council, finalists may be asked to participate in brief interviews. The deadline for applications is August 31; selections will be made by September 8.