James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

January 18, 2008

The Day of the Thousand Interviews

Filed under: University Visits — Tags: , , , , — James @ 9:04 pm

Well five actually, but everything in due course.

Actually I’m just going to hit the major high lights:

The computer support they’ve got is amazing. On our tour of one of the facilities we walked into a room built for pure computational biologists. There where giant metal sleeves of cables running up from the center of every table surface, and looking up I saw giant bundles of ethernet cables running overhead. The only word that comes to mind is awesome.

Plenty of growth chambers and greenhouses of course.

I learned a lot about soybeans. Which was good. I got something to call my interest: crop genomics.

At the poster session they had this evening I met a guy who was working with wild rice, which is only in the earliest stages of domestication. The two things that struck me where the creativity he was forced into, given the extremely limited resources the government provides for such a small crop, and the fact that a big percentage of the money he gets comes from the wild rice growers themselves, and in return he goes out and meets with the grower association. He’s only of literally four people doing work in wild rice and the only molecular biologist. So it was really cool to talk to him.

Coolest Title I’ve ever heard of: Lichenologist (The Lichens that grown on rocks and trees, not the werewolves in Underworld)

Saddest realization: Not only is it a lot more work to cross soybeans than corn, but after you’ve made that cross, you get MAYBE 5 seeds. Not the 50-200 you’d normally get from an ear of corn. It seems to me that would change the way you’d have to do experiments in all sorts of ways, though I’m not having a lot of success thinking of what they are yet.


  1. okay, i’ll consider MN. really, i will. and YAY FOR SOYBEANS. I ate soybeans today…well, soymilk-ish. And last week I was eating soybean sprouts that looked exactly like the plants that i was growing while i was trying to kill them…it was…odd. but the point is, yay soybeans! you have to tell me what you learned about them. because i have to know. okay, i’m going to email you back with other things and life…but i’m glad you liked MN.

    Comment by hannah — January 19, 2008 @ 7:40 am

  2. naturally, it’s me again. i’m trying to come up with a cooler name then lychenologist…[rather than finish this application and do my homework]…but i’m failing. oh! foot doctors. ppl who study feet have a cool name: podiatrists. but maybe only i think that’s cool. i suppose i like lychen so i shouldn’t complain too much. did i tell you that i saw lots of plant fossils today? they were pretty. and they always had little itty bitty fish in the background, but the signs never pointed them out…which made me sad. anyhow…i should stop procrastinating….

    Comment by hannah — January 20, 2008 @ 6:46 am

  3. Hey James,
    What a good idea to send me to your blog, sure saves duplicate writing to your wide fan club. Great descriptions of your visit to MN. I felt I had a real taste of the events and issues you are considering. I’m glad to have the “crop genomics” term to use when people ask me what James is interested in. I look forward to more blogs on more visits.
    Love, GB

    Comment by grandma beth — January 28, 2008 @ 10:44 am

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