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Where Are They Now? -- Dr. Hazel Smith

Posted on 19 September 2016.

I have just returned to the lab after spending seven months working in industry. During this time I worked at a commercial plant breeding company where I learnt just how much effort goes into bringing new varieties to market using traditional breeding techniques. While I’ve worked on identifying molecular markers for future molecular breeding programs before, it was a very interesting experience to take part in a successful traditional breeding program. I learnt a lot about the reality of pre-breeding, controlled crossing, selection (and de-selection!) of seedlings, and assessment of advanced selections in raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. These are all time consuming steps which need to happen to find just a few commercially competitive varieties which eventually end up patented. Alongside learning about the traditional programs, I worked to establish and develop a molecular breeding approach to support and enhance the established efforts. The past seven months have been a great commercial experience for me and have taught me a lot which I hope to make use of in the future. I’m now excited to continue working on WATBIO (, where I focus on understanding the genetic basis of drought tolerance and yield in the bioenergy species black poplar using next generation sequencing. I’m also looking forward to continuing to utilise novel technologies to improve the sustainability of water use in energy and food crop production.