Speaker Profiles

Speaker Profiles

C. Robin Buell

Dr. C. Robin Buell

Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar Chair in Plant Genomics
Professor, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences - University of Georgia

Research: Comparative genomics of plants and plant pathogens

Speaker Topic: Bioinformatics

Dr. C. Robin Buell is the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar Chair in Crop Genomics in the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences at the University of Georgia. Prior to joining UGA, she was a University Distinguished Faculty and MSU Foundation Professor of Plant Biology at Michigan State University (2007-2021), an Associate Investigator at The Institute for Genomic Research (1999-2007), and an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University (1997-1998). While at Michigan State University, she served as Director of the Plant Resilience Institute (2018-2021).
Dr. Buell’s research program focuses on the genome biology of plants including comparative genomics, bioinformatics, and computational biology. She has an active research group composed of postdoctoral research fellows, research assistants, graduate students, undergraduate students and collaborates with scientists across the United States and throughout the world. She has worked on the genomes of Arabidopsis, rice, potato, maize, switchgrass, sweet potato, mints, and medicinal plants. She has completed pioneering work on potato genomics and genetics, facilitating development of genome sequences, analysis of genetic diversity, identification of genes involved in domestication, and development of potato dihaploids.

With expertise in bioinformatics, one component of Dr. Buell’s research is the provision of databases and web-based data-mining tools for the greater scientific community. As part of this focus, she maintains the Rice Genome Annotation Project, which receives over 2 million page visits a year.

Dr. Buell earned her BSc from the University of Maryland, her MSc from Washington State University, and her PhD from Utah State University. She has served as an editor at Plant Physiology, Plant Genome, Crop Science, Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics, and Plant Cell. She also serves as an advisor to several research consortia including the Salk Institute’s Harnessing the Plant Initiative. Dr. Buell is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement for Science and the American Society of Plant Biologists. In 2022, she was the recipient of the McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies from the Maize Genetics Cooperation Advocacy Committee. Dr. Buell has published more than 270 papers and secured more than $76M in competitive research funding including PI of a recently awarded $15.8M grant from the U.S. Department of Energy focused on synthetic biology of poplar.

Bruce Erickson

Dr. Bruce Erickson

Distance Education & Outreach Coordinator, Clinical Professor of Agronomy - Purdue University

Research: Distance education and outreach, precision farming

Speaker Topic: Precision Agriculture

Dr. Bruce Erickson is the Distance Education & Outreach Coordinator and Clinical Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University. He works to help deliver Purdue Agronomy’s wealth of expertise to audiences in Indiana and around the world using a variety of learning platforms.

In his roles at Purdue, Dr. Erickson focuses on corn and soybean production, precision farming, instructional design, and competency-based education and assessment. He has experience in building technical, product-related sales and marketing programs to fulfill individual proficiency needs and to meet business goals, and then delivering through classroom, field, teleconference, CD, and web-based platforms.

Dr. Erickson grew up on an Iowa farm, completed his undergraduate work at Iowa State University in agronomy, and then began his professional career as an agronomist with DuPont Pioneer. After completing his master’s at Iowa State University in crop production and physiology and his PhD in agronomy at Purdue, Dr. Erickson joined the staff of the Purdue University Department of Agronomy where he taught the introductory agronomy course. He has also played a leading role in developing and maintaining the performance objective documents and the minimum proficiency exams for the International Certified Crop Adviser Program (CCA) and the Tri-State (Ill., Ind., Ohio) regional CCA program.

Ying Li

Dr. Ying Li

Assistant Professor, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture - Purdue University

Research: Influence of Environment and Development Stage on Gene Regulatory Networks

Speaker Topic: Big Data

Dr. Ying Li is an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. Dr. Li earned her bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences from Tsinghua University, China. She then came to the United States, and earned first a master's and then a PhD in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Li spent five years as a postdoc researcher at New York University, working on systems biology of nitrogen use in plants. At Purdue HLA, her lab will focus on understanding and improving how crops respond to environmental stimuli at molecular and systems levels. Specifically, Dr. Li's lab aims to apply state-of-art molecular tools and computational approaches to probe gene regulatory networks underlying environmental responses, including both transcriptional regulation and histone modification changes. The ultimate goal is to identify key molecular players to engineer better crops that are more resilient to adverse conditions.

James Schnable

Dr. James Schnable

Dr. Charles O. Gardner Professor of Agronomy - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Research: Plant breeding, genetics, computational biology

Speaker Topic: Phenotyping / Remote Sensing

Dr. James Schnable is the Dr. Charles O. Gardner Professor of Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research group focuses on integrating new technologies and capabilities from engineering, computer science, and statistics into maize and sorghum genetic and genomic research.

Dr. Schnable has founded three companies: Data2Bio (focused on genotyping and breeding decision support), Dryland Genetics (breeding naturally water use efficient crops), and EnGeniousAg (low cost nondestructive nutrient and water sensors for farmers). He serves as a consultant or advisor to the scientific advisory boards of a number of larger companies in the agricultural and genomics sectors.

Dr. Schnable holds a BA in Biology from Cornell University (2008) and a PhD in Plant Biology from UC-Berkeley (2012). From 2013 to 2014 he was a NSF Plant Genome Fellowship supported postdoctoral scholar at the Danforth Center in St. Louis, and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing China.

Dr. Schnable received the Marcus Rhoades Early Career Award for Maize Genetics in 2018, the North American Plant Phenotyping Network Early Career Award in 2019, and the American Society of Plant Biologists Early Career Award in 2019.

Alencar Xavier

Dr. Alencar Xavier

Breeding Analyst for Latin America & Africa - Corteva Agriscience
Adjunct Assistant Professor - Purdue University

Research: Machine learning-based AI applied to breeding

Speaker Topic: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Dr. Alencar Xavier received his bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM), Brazil, and his PhD from Purdue University in Soybean Breeding and Statistical Genetics. In 2016, he joined the quantitative genetics group at Corteva Agrisciences, and since 2017 he has been an adjunct professor at Purdue University.

In 2022, Dr. Xavier became Corteva’s breeding analyst for Latin America and Africa. His research focuses on genomic selection, stability, resource optimization and computational quantitative genetics. Dr. Xavier has four published R packages and various manuscripts on statistical genetics and soybean breeding. In his spare time, he enjoys podcasts, playing soccer and basketball, biking, and chess.