Using words to inspire science
By Leslie Sweet Myrick
May 15, 2018

Earlier this month, I attended the Fourth Annual Food Security Symposium, an event coordinated by our office. Presenters and attendees shared their visions for avoiding a world food crisis through plant breeding.

As a “word person” and not a scientist, some of the presentations were a bit technical for me, so not surprisingly the inspirational words are what stuck with me personally from the event.

Professor of Crop Sciences Jack Juvik shared this gem from Thomas Jefferson, U.S. president and agronomist:  

“The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture…”

The President of the Borlaug Training Foundation Fred Cholick shared a wonderful quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug:

“We cannot build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.”

And in the keynote address, an alumnus of the U of I, Dr. Robert Zeigler who spent much of his career at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said to future plant breeders:

“I commend you for being in agricultural sciences. We are still so early on in understanding the manipulation of our crops. You have so much to look forward to that I am jealous. One thing I will tell you about this line of work and having a career like the one I had at IRRI is that when you go to bed at night you will not worry about wasting your life.”

I for one didn’t expect this type of inspiration during a presentation titled “What it takes to access germplasm.”

In the audience were several students who are gaining education and experience here at the U of I – many of them presented posters of their work at the symposium – and no doubt they were inspired by these words as well as from all the groundbreaking scientific information they were exposed to at this event.

A more detailed summary of the symposium can be found here: