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  • Job: Professor of Horticulture
  • Lab: Multiple sites, including a research lab in the Horticulture Building and field locations around the state
  • What I do: Research and teach about the growth and propagation of various plants, including cranberries, trees and other varieties

What’s the research question on your mind right now? Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work on sustainable cropping units. We’re asking how we can document the benefits these systems can provide to an ecosystem.

What’s the most unique feature of your lab? Our horticulture laboratory contains a unique facility to support the maintenance and growth of crop plants in sterile test-tube environments.

Where do you get your best work done? For my deepest and most complex data collection, it’s in the field. For my deepest and most complex writing, it’s alone at our small home in the hills of southwest Wisconsin.

What’s your desktop picture? The dominant cranberry flower.

Name something personal in your office and why you keep it there. Thank-you letters and special gifts from past students and visiting associates. These help to keep my mind positive and remind me why I am doing all this work.

Why did you go into research as a career? That’s easy. Nothing more exciting than discovering something that was never known before, especially if it involves some cool interactions between different organisms and might lead to understanding a practical problem.

What’s the most stimulating part of your day? Teaching—it is even more stimulating than research. I often say the teaching and working with students gives me my high every day, and that’s why this is such a great job.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned in your work? How to reverse the vegetative developmental cycle of perennial plants like trees. By focusing on the right tissues and using some laboratory growth control techniques, we can mostly rejuvenate an adult tree. But the approach does not work for some plants such as oaks, and no one knows the gene basis for this phenomenon.