Past Emerging Leader Award Winners

2018 - Emily Combs Ziemke


Emily Ziemke (Combs) is a germplasm discovery breeder for Corteva AgriscienceTM the Agriculture Division of DowDuPontTM in Mankato, MN. She also serves as a representative from Corteva to the Excellence in Breeding program and is active in the GreenSeam, a Southern MN agriculture advocacy organization.  Dr. Ziemke is the vice-chair of the advocacy committee in the National Association of Plant Breeders where she works to inform the public and legislators about the importance of plant breeding.  She received her Ph.D. in applied plant sciences with a concentration in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and her bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in genetics and development from Cornell University.  She has interned with CIMMYT, Cold Spring Harbor Lab, the Noble Foundation, and DuPont Pioneer.


2017 - Dr. Matthew Rouse


We are happy to announce that the winner of the 2017 University of Minnesota Emerging Leader in Applied Plant Sciences Award is Dr. Matthew Rouse of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Cereal Disease Laboratory (CDL)!

Plant pathologist Dr. Matthew Rouse works at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Cereal Disease Laboratory (CDL) and serves as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota. Matt joined the CDL in 2010 immediately after completing a PhD at the University of Minnesota and was appointed to the University of Minnesota faculty in 2011. As part of the CDL, Matt’s research mission is to reduce losses in wheat and barley to major diseases including stem rust and leaf rust. Matt has contributed towards solutions to the threat of Ug99 and other emerging virulent races of the stem rust pathogen. In the fight against Ug99, Matt has conducted research in Kenya, Ethiopia, and in a biocontainment facility at the University of Minnesota. Excellent team members at the CDL, University of Minnesota, and international collaborators worked with Matt to make rapid progress in identifying new stem rust resistance genes, establishing new field disease screening nurseries in Ethiopia, and assisting breeders in the release of stem rust resistant wheat varieties across the globe. Matt is a member of the Stakman-Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health at the University of Minnesota. Matt and his beautiful wife Alicia have two young children.

Seminar Title: Wheat Stem Rust Resistance 50 Years After Borlaug’s Green Revolution

2016 - Dr. Nathan Springer

Nathan Springer

We were excited to announce Dr. Nathan Springer of the University of Minnesota as the winner of the 2016 University of Minnesota Emerging Leader in Applied Plant Sciences Award!

Nathan Springer is a McKnight Presidential Endowed Professor in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota. He received a PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2000 and his thesis research in Dr. Ron Phillips lab involved cloning of DNA methyltransferases from maize and analysis of anueploid-induced syndromes. Nathan was a post-doctoral research in Shawn Kaeppler’s group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working on functional genomics of maize chromatin. He joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 2003. Members of the Springer lab use classical genetic, molecular genetic and genomic approaches to study natural variation for gene expression and chromatin in maize. The Springer research group has also been involved in research on imprinting, heterosis and structural genomic variation in maize.

Learn here to learn about the exciting research going on in the Springer Lab!

2015 – Dr. Julie Grossman

Julie Grossman

The winner of the 2015 University of Minnesota Emerging Leader in Applied Plant Sciences Award was Dr. Julie Grossman of the University of Minnesota!

Dr. Grossman is an Assistant Professor in Biological and Sustainable Horticulture in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Grossman comes most recently from a faculty position in the Department of Soil Science at NC State University, where she spent 6 years working in soil fertility management of organic farming systems prior to starting at UMN in June, 2014. She holds an M.S. in Soil Science and Ph.D. in Agronomy and Plant Genetics from the University of Minnesota, and was an NSF Post-doctoral Fellow at Cornell University.

Julie’s research broadly explores the ways in which we can better manage plant-soil-microbe relationships in order to enhance soil fertility through microbial processes, with the ultimate goal of developing sustainable food production systems. A central thread that connects much of our work is the examination of winter annual legume cover crops to help maintain landscape diversity and tighten nutrient cycling in agroecosystems.

Julie has a strong interest in soil science and sustainable agriculture education, serving as the past Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association Steering Council, a national organization supporting the development, application, research, and exchange of best teaching and learning practices in sustainable agriculture.  At the University of Minnesota she teaches the capstone course for the new undergraduate Food System major, as well as a course focusing on farm and soil management, using the student organic farm as a living laboratory. She has been a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico, as well as a fellow in the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability and Justice at the University of Minnesota.

2014 – Dr. Jianming Yu

Jianming Yu

In 2014 we congratulated Dr. Jianming Yu as he was awarded the 2014 University of Minnesota Emerging Leader in Plant Sciences Award.  Dr. Yu was selected based on his early career accomplishments in plant breeding and genetics, leadership in the field, and demonstrated innovation and progressive research

Jianming Yu is associate professor and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding in the Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University. Dr. Jianming Yu obtained his M.S. from Kansas State University in 2000, and Ph.D. from University of Minnesota in 2003. The focus of Yu’s program is to combine maize breeding with cutting-edge genomic technologies to address significant questions in quantitative genetics. Dr. Yu’s research integrates knowledge in quantitative genetics, plant breeding, genomics, molecular genetics, and statistics, and has the ultimate goal to develop and implement new strategies and methods in trait dissection and crop improvement. He is the lead organizer of a workshop, Genomic Selection and Genome-Wide Association Studies (GS+GWAS), at the annual Plant and Animal Genomes Conference, San Diego, California. Recent research in his program includes systematic dissection of heterosis, genotype-by-environment interaction and epistasis, genome-wide prediction and validation, genome-wide landscape of genetic polymorphisms underlying quantitative trait variation, and parallel domestication in cereals. He is a member of Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding at Iowa State University.