We are currently facing numerous important global challenges and underlying many such issues is our ability to create a food-secure world while protecting the future of our planet. Agriculture, and more specifically, plant breeding is at the core of that global priority. Most of the food that we eat today cannot be found in the natural world and most crop varieties need to be adapted to specific conditions to achieve reliable productivity. Today, in addition to traditional selection approaches, plant breeding is driven by the most advanced understanding of genetics and biological tools and the application of diverse technologies is engraved in the work of plant breeders.
The College of Agricultural and Life Science at UW–Madison houses one of the largest graduate training programs in the U.S. in terms of number of graduate students, breadth of training and impact in plant breeding. The UW Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics (PBPG) program has traditionally encompassed between 45 and 50 graduate students since its inception and currently includes 28 faculty across eight departments. This program was founded in 1968 and the list of alumni includes more than 380 PhD (most in the world) and 142 MS terminal degrees granted with ~100 of them since 2009.
Alumni from this program are found across all facets of the plant breeding world, nationally and internationally, public and private sectors. A recent survey conducted by the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee, part of the National Association of Plant Breeders, which included 53 US-based institutions that have PhD degrees in plant breeding, identified the UW PBPG program as the number one graduate training program in terms of its placement of new Ph.D. graduates in public or private employment.
As we continue efforts to address the many challenges facing the world today, the UW PBPG program is making its contribution by continuing to prepare its graduates for successful and impactful careers in industry and academia, and to equip them with a diversity of skills and perspectives and the ability to remain at the forefront of rigorous scientific training and relevant technology adoption.