With the development of the Nebraska Molecular Plant Breeding Program, UNL is acknowledging that plant breeding efforts must be expanded to meet national growing demands for value-added traits, renewable energy resources, enhanced crop nutritional value, and improved crop performance on increasingly marginal lands exposed to new environmental stresses.

The NMPB Program combines several unique capabilities that are especially well suited for the type of graduate training environment we have created. As increasing amounts of genomic data become available, and genes are discovered that influence crop responses to abiotic stress, breeders must be skilled at accessing and effectively exploiting these sources of information. As environmental and safety regulations become more exacting, students will need appropriate training in crop management for strict identity preservation required to work with regulated transgenic traits under field conditions.

Our program aims to achieve a more diverse, technology-rich and integrated research and training experience with opportunities for regular interaction with commercial plant breeding programs. This type of diverse training will be essential for our future plant breeding Ph.D. students to move into industry or into academic positions. This PhD degree is conferred through the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.

Find out how to apply to the Nebraska Molecular Plant Breeding Program.

Meng Xie shows Dr. Ed Cahoon his results

Meng Xie shows Dr. Ed Cahoon his results.

 

Curriculum

First Semester

Students will participate in a common course curriculum, described below, that will include an introductory molecular biology laboratory, a lab experience in plant transformation procedures, emphasizing sorghum and soybean, and, over the summer of Year 1, a large scale transgenic crop field management and trait evaluation training program.

Saadia transforming plantsStudents enrolling in this program will be familiarized with the fundamental aspects of molecular biology by participating in an 8-week laboratory course that will provide hands-on experience in the basic protocols associated with gene isolation, assembly of plant expression cassettes, and selection systems used in plant genetic engineering. In addition, the students will get training on culturing, storage and background information on the underlying biology of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The course will consist of two 1-hour lectures and two 3-hour laboratory sessions per week over an 8-week period in the fall semester.

Second Semester

Students will participate in a common course curriculum, described below, that will include an introductory molecular biology laboratory, a lab experience in plant transformation procedures, emphasizing sorghum and soybean, and, over the summer of Year 1, a large scale transgenic crop field management and trait evaluation training program.

Tobaccco Alfano LabThe following spring semester, students will work with both our sorghum transformation and soybean transformation teams. Over an 8-week period each student will get a short hands-on training on the various steps involved in Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of both monocot and dicot systems, using an herbicidal marker gene (soybean) or an antibiotic marker gene (sorghum)

First Summer

Weeks plantsStudents will participate in a common course curriculum, described below, that will include an introductory molecular biology laboratory, a lab experience in plant transformation procedures, emphasizing sorghum and soybean, and, over the summer of Year 1, a large scale transgenic crop field management and trait evaluation training program. The two short courses in molecular biology and Agrobacterium-mediated transformation will be complemented with a summer working experience at our Field Testing Facility located near Mead, Nebraska.

Other Opportunities

Students will participate in a common course curriculum, described below, that will include an introductory molecular biology laboratory, a lab experience in plant transformation procedures, emphasizing sorghum and soybean, and, over the summer of Year 1, a large scale transgenic crop field management and trait evaluation training program. Student Advisory Committees will be established. Members of these committees will include the primary advisor, one member each with expertise in molecular biology, computational biology or biostatistics, and stress physiology, and one outside member selected from industry to provide special expertise in practical plant breeding with emphasis on special industry demands. The student will be expected to meet with the committee once per year, and to visit the industry mentor on-site once a year for mentorship in the industry plant breeding process.

 

Program Curriculum & Biweekly Symposium

Students will participate in a common course curriculum, described below, that will include an introductory molecular biology laboratory, a lab experience in plant transformation procedures, emphasizing sorghum and soybean, and, over the summer of Year 1, a large scale transgenic crop field management and trait evaluation training program.

Students will develop their program of courses with the assistance of their Advisory Committee. Several courses are newly developed or revised and are designed to address the plant breeding emphasis of our program. Plant Breeding trainees and their mentors will also participate in a bi-weekly symposium that will feature presentations by students and mentors to feature details of ongoing research, as well as invited outside speakers on topics of direct relevance to the NMPB Program.

 

  • Participate in instruction for one semester. The course selected for this training is Botany (BIOS 109, 4 cr). This undergraduate course is accompanied by a laboratory that is taught completely by the Teaching Assistant, once fully trained. This teaching experience provides ideal training in that graduate trainees must be highly knowledgeable in all aspects of plant biology from cell structure to plant physiology and adaptation, to biotechnology and plant evolution. The trainee must also develop presentation style, lecture organizational skills, and rapport with undergraduate students from varied backgrounds.
  • On an annual basis, students will travel to a company to meet with their Industry Co-Advisor. During these annual progress meetings, students will be given the opportunity to become familiar with industry plant breeding strategies and managerial practices. The student will be expected, at the end of their training, to provide a written summary of their industry experience as part of their final defense.

 

Coursework

  • *Crop Plant (AGRO 486/886, 1 cr) (Dweikat and Clemente): 8-week instruction on DNA cloning and transformation technology.

  • *Plant Genetics (AGRO 919, 2 cr) (Dweikat and Mackenzie): Instruction on genetic principles, plant genomics, biochemical genetics, DNA marker development and analysis, and cytoplasmic genetics (including CMS breeding and molecular biology to accompany the transgenic selection of CMS going on in the field).

 

  • *Plant Transformation Laboratory Experience (1 cr) (Clemente and Sato).

  • *Transgenic Crop Management and Performance Evaluation, (2 cr) Summer Session (Graef, LaVallee).

*Designed to address the plant breeding emphasis of our program.