December 7, 2019

2019 Graduate Student Survey

To better understand the needs and interests of the WheatCAP graduate students we conduct annual surveys. The complete results are (here) and below we show the responses to some selected questions.  

Question 4. How confident are you in the following skill sets? 

Question 7. In your opinion, what are the three best methods for educating graduate students? 

Question 8. Percentage of Wheat-CAP students interested in plant breeding. 

88% of the Wheat-CAP students are interested in Plant Breeding. 

Question 9. Percentage of Wheat-CAP students who want to pursue a career in plant breeding. 

87% of the Wheat-CAP students want to pursue a career in plant breeding. 

Question 16. How can we improve the WheatCAP education program? 

Student Responses: 

  1. Seek input from the students with regards to event scheduling. I’d like to see students play a bigger role in determining the outline for the annual meeting and the workshop topics. 
  2. I think it is great the way it is. 
  3. By arranging more online training programs. 
  4. It would be really helpful if we had learning opportunities on how to run a breeding program. While we can learn from our major professors, there are obviously differences between programs. In terms of the content, I would be most interested in learning about how to leverage traditional breeding schemes, biotech (e.g. Doubled haploids), MAS, genomic selection. More important than the theory behind the concepts would be go through fictional and real life scenarios. This is what my plant breeding courses lacked. As an example, the instructor presents us with a breeding program, describes the resources available, and what the objective is. We would then be told to use what was taught and develop a breeding strategy to achieve the goal. We would then develop a strategy, have it evaluated, and learn from the mistakes. 
  5. Leadership training and soft skills training for advisors as well as students and post docs. 
  6. The education activities have been diverse and with depth. The up to date on line resources are awesome. Only thing I would really like to see is if we can include some guest speakers in the monthly meeting from different aspect of breeding fields (industry, government, academic etc) to share their opinions or experiences. 
  7. A.) Training on software/programs/ related to our work (Flapjack, Bioinformatics, Tassel). B.) Training exercises in workshop of becoming independent thinkers (design experiments, interpert results to start new experiments etc.). C.) Make completing an internship a compulsory part of the program. Many students want to go into industry but need that door or opportunity available in order to transition into the workforce immediately (it will be beneficial to the long-term goals of this program). 
  8. Allow more trouble shooting avenues – break into smaller groups to discuss problem areas. 
  9. Internships at plant breeding companies during the summer of our last 1-2 years. 
  10. I personally think that having more workshops or 30 min seminar by an invited speaker in the monthly meeting may be a good approach. 
  11. A.) Give more opportunities/time for students to teach students rather than just long lectures by professors, B.) More breaks during workshops to avoid mind-numbing inattention, C.) Find ways to promote interested students who want industry internships before s/he graduates. 
  12. During the weeklong educational meetings, the students have so much to talk about, sharing issues they face, and being connected with other students who can help them troubleshoot. The problem is that the education program runs from ~8-5:30 pm, and there is not much time to help each other or students are tired after a long day. We should have Wednesday be a half day. This give students time to schedule meetings with each other and stay on-task during the education program. Additionally, a half-day mid-week provides some rest and students are more ready to work hard on Thursday and Friday rather than burn out. 
  13. For the workshops, get student input for what topics we will learn. 
  14. Help students get connected with funding opportunities for which they must write proposals. Writing a proposal is a good way to perfect the scientific thought process and will make students more competitive in their academic futures.  
  15. I am a new student here so I am not that clearly about background of breeding and the normal process of genetic breeding. If some old students could help us as a small group, it will be great. 
  16. Its very student centered grant and I appreciate all the opportunities that I have got from it. I think we are missing the industry/commercial institution link on our experience and I hope that comes soon. 
  17. Workshop  
  18. Could give us some reference textbooks to consolidate our knowledge background. 
  19. I feel that while the WheatCAP grant is fantastic at training students in the field of molecular genetics, it is lacking in training students based on field breeding and phenotyping techniques, which I would argue is one of the most important parts of plant breeding. Granted, that is that the focus of WheatCAP but I see a lot of students who say that they want to be plant breeders but they are trapped in the lab because their advisers are not actually field breeders, therefore they are only seeing a small part of the plant breeding picture. If they were able to see how a full-scale breeding program actually functions, I think it would be highly beneficial to them. 

Question 17. Suggestions for future education activities? 

  1. On multiple occasions, several students have raised concerns about their exposure to breeding programs, industry contacts, growers, and downstream processors. I think a workshop focused on these topics will be greatly beneficial for those students. From discussions with folks that were apart of previous CAPs, it appears that such an event was previously held. My adviser, Jim Anderson, and I have discussed the possibility of Minnesota hosting such an event, and he is on board. The workshop would consist of tours and discussions of the UMN HRSW breeding program, discussions with members of USDA Cereal Disease Lab, tours of mills and commercial bakeries, potential visits with seed producers, and if possible a day trip to a private breeding company station. Jim also expressed interest in reaching out to folks in Fargo to incorporate USDA and NDSU research facilities and activities. This would allow for a tour of one of the USDA genotyping labs as well as a full quality lab. The central location of Minneapolis-St. Paul and the presence of a large hub airport would alleviate many of the travel issues that WheatCAP students have experienced during recent workshops. 
  2. Industry Experience! 
  3. Incorporate visits to university’s breeding fields/ nurseries and nearby private companies that breed small grains or other crops. 
  4. A lot of students want to go into industry- maybe there is a way to set up job shadows or short-term internships with companies. 
  5. Allowing students to pursue a professional internship would be a great educational opportunity. 
  6. Industry internship would be very exciting. 
  7. I need more data analysis practice. 
  8. I would say that a workshop that focuses on field breeding techniques would be helpful for students who have a primarily, lab-based background.