The life of a grad student

I’m back! Summer is over, and with it my chances to spend more time writing here at Genetic Maize (I spent way too much time in the greenhouse!). On the other hand, now that the semester is started, I have a lot to write about.
The most exciting part of the summer was the NSF program Debating Science. I spent an entire week with a wonderful group of scientists, social scientists, and philosophers discussing the ethics of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and climate change in beautiful Missoula, Montana. The workshop continues into a semester long discussion and wiki creation. Dane Scott, Director of the Center for Ethics at UMT, has graciously permitted me to write about it.
As a result of the workshop, I’m a lot more interested in the social, economic, and ethical issues associated with GMOs – so that’s what a lot of my writing is going to be focused on. Don’t worry, there are a lot of excellent bloggers keeping tabs on the hard science. I’d especially like to call your attention to the prolific David Tribe aka GMO Pundit who somehow finds peer reviewed and popular media on GMOs that would never pop up on my Google Reader otherwise.
In other news, I’m taking “Advanced Plant Breeding” which I thought was going to be horribly boring (no offense to my prof who wrote the book, Walt Fehr) but is actually very interesting. I’m having to figure out genotype frequencies into 5th generations and beyond, something that isn’t too bad once you know what you’re doing, but that I’ve never been asked to do in previous genetics classes. The prof is sharing some of his experiences in plant breeding, including a discussion of intellectual property and germplasm. Most importantly, I’m learning “the language of the plant breeder,” such as what a F2:3 line is!
A few days ago, my major professor agreed to let me add a minor in Sustainable Agriculture to my degree, so I am on the look out for a new committee member to represent those issues. I’m signed up for Sus Ag Convivium, essentially a seminar series. I have a lot of questions about things in the seminars, which I’ll do my best to investigate and post here.
And, let’s not forget the always wonderful seminars, workshops, conferences, tours, and such that are always going on at ISU. Plenty of things for an impressionable grad student to fill her mind with, and plenty of things for a blogger to write about.

Written by Anastasia Bodnar

Anastasia Bodnar is a science communicator and science policy expert with a PhD in plant genetics and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Anastasia has had various risk analysis roles in US government and military service. She serves as BFI's Director of Policy and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog.

5 comments

  1. Welcome back to blogging, Anastasia. I just re-emerged from a grueling field season myself, and I’m getting back into the swing of things. Strangely enough, none of the classes I need to take for my major, save the graduate student seminar, are offered this semester for me. So instead, I’m taking one course on communications theory for a science communication minor (nice minor, yourself) that I’m getting on board to do. Oh, and the Secret Project (TM) is nearing completion.

  2. Andrew, thanks for linking.

    I haven’t had much time to look around GMObelus, but the search function is very nice. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to try search for something simple and end up with all crazy propaganda sites. Learning about opposing viewpoints and contradictory evidence is one thing, but enough is enough.

    The week in review is nice. Any chance you’ll put up an RSS feed for it? I also wouldn’t mind a headlines feed for Potpourri 🙂

  3. Hello Chai,

    I’ll do my best to answer your question.

    Let’s say we are trying to start a new line of corn. We might cross two known inbred lines (the parental or P generation) to get the F1 generation. Then, if we self the F1 we’ll get the F2. If we take seeds from one of the F2 plants, grow them in a row, let that row intermate, and harvest the resulting seeds, we’ve started an F2:3 line. If we instead Self the F2, we’ll have an F3.

    Other readers, if this is wrong, please correct me. I certainly do not claim to be a plant breeder 🙂

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