We don’t call it a lab—that’s important. It’s a team. Members of that team are working on a variety of things—sweet corn breeding, indigenous food systems, food and seed sovereignty, intellectual property, and much more.

No matter what a student is focusing on, we work closely together in the field every summer.

There’s always an open door policy and I try to meet with graduate students every other week. We work together as a team and we also have lots of group meetings where we might discuss issues in science, plant breeding, food systems, or anything else the group wants to explore together. No matter what the day brings, I think that we have a tremendous amount of fun.

I absolutely love what I do. Every time I go out into the field, I see something new—something that I’ve never seen before—something that maybe no one on this planet has seen before. That’s what we do as plant breeders: We create organisms that have never existed before. And we work hard, and it takes years, but at the end of the day, people are smiling and we all eat better.

I most enjoy working with people who have a passion and want to work hard to explore every inch of that passion. That might be about biology, or agriculture, or breeding, or indigenous food systems, or something else. I want people to join Team Sweet who care about other people and respect other people and know how to work with other people. The most important criteria though – and this is hard to measure – is curiosity.

First and foremost, it’s people. I am extraordinarily proud of the graduate students who have come through my program and gone on to do amazing things. They’re leaders in their fields and areas of expertise. Most of them have become incredible mentors and leaders in their own programs. I’m also exceedingly proud to have developed kinds of corn that didn’t exist before but are now becoming important contributions in the market. My varieties have been used in every country that grows sweet corn, and that global contribution of genetic material brings me profound joy.