Core Faculty and Staff
Dr. Jovan Djordjevic spent over 25 cumulative years with Monsanto, Limagrain and BASF Vegetable Seeds, where he was most recently director of their research and breeding teams and developed crop strategy (vegetable seeds) as BASF Vegetable's Global R and D Team Lead for breeding. An accomplished and experienced plant breeder, he brings a broad-based expertise in plant breeding research and development, including the application of new technologies in breeding, building innovation culture & teams, linking business and complex R and D activities, and building organizational strategies centered around customers and consumers. Jovan is passionate about plant breeding and research technologies contributing to world food production, in particular those that involve fewer detrimental environmental impacts.
Dr. Rita Mumm brings a quarter century of experience in plant breeding and the seed industry. Dr. Mumm was a pioneer in developing and releasing some of the first transgenic traits in crops with DEKALB Genetics Corp, and in establishing a high-throughput molecular marker system to implement genomic information in seed product development. Her expertise is applied to maize quantitative genetics, applications of genomic information to the development of improved crop cultivars, and deployment of traits created through genetic engineering, including efficient breeding strategies and stewardship of governmentally regulated materials. Dr. Mumm was the founding director of the Illinois Plant Breeding Center at the University of Illinois and now enjoys emerita status in the Department of Crop Science. In addition to faculty at the University of Illinois, Dr. Mumm is principal at GeneMax Services, a consulting firm to the seed industry. She is past president of the National Association of Plant Breeders and a named inventor on several U.S. patents, including one detailing the first glyphosate tolerant transgenic event in maize. Currently, she serves as a Board Trustee of CIMMYT.
Dr. Todd Wehner has been working on plant breeding at North Carolina State University since 1979. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his A.B. in botany in 1975 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a M.S. in Agronomy and a Ph.D. in plant breeding and plant genetics in 1979. Dr. Wehner took over the cucumber breeding and genetics project at North Carolina State University, Raleigh in 1979, and in 1993, he took on the additional responsibility for breeding and genetics research on watermelon and specialty melon. His research has emphasized improved selection methods; recurrent selection for fruit yield, earliness, quality and parthenocarpy; resistance to chilling, nematodes, foliar fungi; and germplasm evaluation to provide industry with new traits for the development of improved cultivars.
Dr. Rob Dirks received his PhD in 1986 at the Free University of Brussels, where he worked on the isolation and biochemical characterisation of auxotrophic mutants in haploid protoplasts of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia. He holds a degree of Bachelor in Economics and a MBA in 1992 from Limburgs Universtair Centrum Diepenbeek (Belgium). He worked as a Research Manager at Nunhems (Now Bayer Crop Science) from April 1986 until December 1998. He continued working in research management at Rijk Zwaan Breeding from December 1998 until February 2017. Since February 2016, Dr. Dirks has been a Guest Professor at the University of Ghent.
While earning her doctorate at the University of Hohenheim, Dr. Alexandra Tomerius worked in close cooperation with private industry plant breeding companies. She further devoted herself to the optimization of plant breeding as a post-graduate through early work as a research associate and later work as a freelance consultant. She was involved in projects related to the optimization of breeding winter wheat (Lochow-Petkus GmbH) and winter oil seed rape (DSV Deutsche Saatveredelung, Lippstadt). Since 2011, she has worked with private companies on plant breeding training course development along with providing plant breeding lecture services to academia and private industry. She has also developed plant breeding teaching software and served as a regular lecturer for the European Plant Breeding Academy.
Dr. Iago Hale, an assistant professor of specialty crop improvement at the University of New Hampshire, USA, is inspired by the potential of plant breeding to enhance health, rural livelihoods, food security, and ecosystem integrity. After studying Physics (B.A.) at Dartmouth College and living and working internationally for a number of years, including in East Africa, Dr. Hale attended the University of California - Davis, where he received his M.S. in International Agricultural Development and Ph.D. in Horticulture and Agronomy (Plant Breeding specialization). His research activities are diverse and include pre-breeding (gene discovery and characterization) for rust resistance in wheat; breeding hardy kiwi cultivars (Actinidia spp.) for the northeastern United States and understanding their potential impact on the region's forests; and investigating the effects of domestication and dislocation from centers of origin on plant-associated microbial communities (model species: Phaseolus vulgaris). Dr. Hale taught a graduate-level course on the design, analysis, and interpretation of experiments at UC Davis and looks forward to working with plant breeders from across Africa as they develop their programs through this academy.
Dr. Bruce Walsh is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona, as well as an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Plant Sciences, Animal Sciences, and Molecular and Cellular Biology. He is a preeminent instructor in Genetics, coauthoring (along with Mike Lynch at Indiana) "Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits", one of the standard references on the application of quantitative genetics to breeding, evolutionary biology, and human genetics. Over the past ten years, he has been invited to give short courses on advanced topics in quantitative and statistical genetics at many of the world's leading universities, including Wageningen, Edinburgh, Uppsala, Huazhong Agricultural University, Aarhus, Liege, Technical University of Munich, University of Helsinki, University of New England (NSW, Australia), and Peking University. Additionally, he has been an instructor for over a decade at the Seattle Summer Institute of Statistical Genetics, training over 500 students at just this institute alone.
Dr. Allen Van Deynze is the Director of Research at the Seed Biotechnology Center and Associate Director of the Plant Breeding Center at University of California, Davis. He has a Ph.D in plant breeding from University of Guelph, Canada. As part of the SBC’s mission to serve as a liaison between public institutions and seed industry, Allen is responsible for developing, coordinating and conducting research and generating and disseminating scientific and informational content for the Seed Biotechnology Center’s and Plant Breeding Center’s educational and outreach programs. His research focuses on developing and integrating genomics into plant breeding of California crops. He has programs on breeding for disease resistance and quality in pepper and spinach, and development and application of genomics in crops. With Dr. Kent Bradford he co-developed and is organizer for the Plant Breeding Academysm and past chair of the US Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. He has been involved in International and National policy including US Regulations for Biotechnology. He is an instructor for the African Plant Breeding Academy and scientific co-leader for the African Orphan Crops Consortium.
Dr. Kent J. Bradford is a Professor of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. Dr. Bradford received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biochemistry and Horticulture from Michigan State University and his Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from UC Davis. He has been on the faculty at UC Davis since 1982, serving as Chair of the Department of Vegetable Crops from 1993 to 1998 and as Director of the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center since 1999. He teaches University and Extension courses on seed production and quality and received a Fulbright Scholar award in 1999 to teach in Argentina. He was awarded the career Seed Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America in 2002 and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003. Dr. Bradford’s research interests are in identifying the genetic and molecular mechanisms regulating seed germination, in applying mathematical models to describe seed germination and dormancy behavior, and in applying methods to enhance seed quality and longevity.
Dr. Rale Gjuric is the former Director of Education at the Seed Biotechnology Center. He is the founder and president of HAPLOTECH Inc., a company specialized in technical services and consulting in plant breeding. Dr. Gjuric received his Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba, Canada; his M.Sc. from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia; and his B.Sc. from the University of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Macedonia. Previously, he held the positions of Breeding Manager of DL Seeds; Research and Managing Director of DSV Canada; all in Winnipeg Canada. Dr. Gjuric is an accomplished plant breeder with numerous canola varieties and hybrids released in his 15 years in the private sector. His current focus is in service to the plant breeding industry with special interest in organization and optimization of plant breeding programs.
Whitney joined the Seed Biotechnology Center in 2021 and coordinates the Plant Breeding Academies as well as other SBC courses. She received her B.S. degree from San Diego State University and has a background in program management, hospitality and directing large-scale events. Whitney brings a new perspective to the SBC, and she is excited to be part of the SBC team and work with instructors and students from around the world.
Please direct any questions about any of our Plant Breeding Academy programs to Whitney Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org