Elizabeth Chapman

KWS Lochow GmbH
Assistant Breeder-Rye Native Trait Introgression

The NRPDTP experience is unique. Being a student at JIC provided constant intellectual stimulation, challenge, and exposure to new ideas. I love the mix of fundamental and applied research, and the importance paid to industrial collaborations, serving to provide context. Coffee break, or post ParkRun conversations on a Saturday, in which people actively wanted you to succeed, and ‘for you to go from being good to excellent’. Importantly, many, even very senior scientists, were happy to discuss ideas and provide help or advice, you just had to drop an e-mail to find a time.

My interdisciplinary PhD concerned the genetic regulation of senescence. Primary supervision was provided by Dr. Simon Griffiths (JIC), with co-supervision from Jacob Lage (KWS). Such an industrial collaboration made all the difference, striking a balance between the academic and practical, giving my vital insights into the breeding industry, and performance of multi-environment field trials. Together we are very proud that my PhD was entirely field-based, without a single pot experiment-a feat difficult to achieve elsewhere.

Being part of a cohort of students was invaluable, whereby you could celebrate, commiserate, support, and learn from one another in equal measure. NRP is a very social place, especially the Department of Crop Genetics at JIC, with highly memorable Christmas parties, encompassing the obligatory round of pool.

The NRPDTP prepared me for employment both scientifically, via the skills, experience and knowledge acquired, but also helped me establish and develop my professional network. Plant science, especially breeding, is a small world, with my network now being cross-crop. Through working alongside, and exposure to, wide-ranging & international communities I realised I too could make the jump and live and work abroad.

Having been headhunted by a conference session chair, upon PhD completion the plan was to join the ‘Postdoctoral Research Program’ at AAFC (Agriculture Agri-Food Canada) in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Sadly, the covid-19 pandemic necessitated a re-think. However, friendships formed on the NRPDTP got me through by reminding me ‘I was too good to give up (on plant science/breeding)’, and just how far I have come. Subsequently, I have been employed as a Scientist at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, Copenhagen, researching the perennial dual-purpose grain and forage crop Intermediate Wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium).

A love of fieldwork and genetics, and a need to work on a crop closer to market, brought me (back) to KWS. I have exchanged hexaploidy for diploidy, but with the challenges and complexities of working in a hybrid system. As breeder for native trait introgression, I am applying my skills in quantitative genetics, physiology, and field skills learnt during my PhD. My role is to identify important traits for addition to the rye breeding portfolio, identify their genetic basis, and conduct trait conversion for incorporation in hybrid breeding systems. In addition, I manage and co-ordinate research collaborations, utlising my experience of being part of a public-private partnership.