January 2018 Newsletter

PBC Annual Film Screening

Do you know how kiwifruit first got to your supermarket?

Fear No Fruit chronicles produce pioneer Frieda Caplan’s rise from being the first woman entrepreneur on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market in the 1960s, to transforming American cuisine by introducing over 200 exotic fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets. Still an inspiration in her 90s, Frieda’s daughters and granddaughter carry on the business legacy.
The Plant Breeding Center is hosting a free on-campus screening of Fear No Fruit. The screening is open to the public, and will be held on Thursday, January 18th, 2018 from 6:30-8:30PM at the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility Auditorium, Room 1005. Doors open at 6PM. The film is 96 minutes and will be followed by a discussion. To register, click here.

Graduate Student Spotlight

Mitchell Feldmann

My name is Mitchell Feldmann and I am a third-year PhD Candidate in Horticulture and Agronomy. I am a part of the UC Davis Strawberry Research and Breeding Program lead by Dr. Steven Knapp, where I focus on the quantitative genetics controlling fruit quality, yield, and other critical commercial traits. It has been an absolute pleasure for me to study strawberry at such a prestigious university under the guidance of so many professional faculty members. I am planning to complete my tenure at UC Davis in Spring of 2020 and move into post-doctoral positions where I hope to continue exploring image-based and in-field high-throughput phenotyping in horticultural crop species. Prior to my studies at UC Davis, I received my Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology alongside a minor in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.
My passion for plant science was inherited from my father, who would regularly sit me down as a child and tell me details about the plant species he studied, Arabidopsis thaliana, or take me on “field trips” to his laboratory at the University of Arizona. Over a decade later, I found myself working in a research lab under the guidance of Dr. Noah Whiteman utilizing Arabidopsis thaliana as a host for Scaptomyza flava, an herbivorous fly, as we sought to understand the plant genetics controlling larval performance and female preference. I have spent much of my life surrounded by plant sciences and, as a result, I feel very much at home in research facilities and on academic campuses, where I hope to stay.
My research at UC Davis is focused on cultivated strawberry, an allo-octoploid. My PhD thesis aims to provide novel insights into the genetics of fruit yield, shelf-life, and flavor through the implementation of contemporary methodologies in quantitative, population, and statistical genetics. Through this research we hope to understand the limitations of genomic-enabled breeding strategies and to assess our ability to improve the flavor and nutritional content in strawberry. I am also quite interested in image based phenotyping options for predicting disease status and fruit quality. I collaborate with the Department of Computer Sciences and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering to develop new imaging platforms to rapidly study the complete surface morphology of fruit and to understand the visual features indicative of disease status in strawberry.
Under Dr. Knapp’s guidance, I have been able to explore several topics that I find interesting, ranging from quantifying and correcting the genetic variance explained by a single quantitative trait locus, developing and deploying a flexible DNA variant discovery pipeline against an octoploid reference genome, and exploring the necessary morphometric complexity to generate novel genomic insights for fruit shape in strawberry. I have been able to present much of this research at major conferences, including the National Association of Plant Breeders (2017), Plant and Animal Genome (2018), and PHENOME (2018).
During my time here, I have also discovered a deep interest and enjoyment of teaching. I work with Dr. Daniel Runcie as a Teaching Assistant for PLS 205 – Experimental Design and Analysis. This class affords me a great deal of time to interact with other graduate students from a multitude of backgrounds and scientific disciplines, and I hope to impart just a bit of my passion for the topics into them. The teaching experience has opened my eyes to an important part of myself that I had never experienced before. It has become challenging to see myself in a scientific career lacking the opportunity to educate and mentor.
Upon completion of my PhD at UC Davis, I intend to continue working at academic research institutes implementing the methodologies to new, possibly under-represented plant species and educating future generations of scientists. Although strawberry has become my favorite organism to think about, I still find myself fascinated by other crops. I hope to continue learning from my collaborators, colleagues, and students, and to also spread my passion for plant science and genetics to young people who may not have had the inspiration that I was privileged to have early in my career.
My advice to all students, incoming and continuing, is to seek variation in experiences, to read broadly and voraciously, and, most importantly, and to always stay curious.

Email Mitchell at:


Fear No Fruit: Free Community Movie Screening
January 18th, 2018

Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility Room 1005
University of California Davis Campus

Register here.

EcoFarm Conference
January 24-27, 2018
Asilomar Conference Grounds
Pacific Grove, CA
For more details, click here.
UC Davis organizes a group of attendees for this event each year. If you are interested in attending the seed summit, please contact Amanda Saichaie.

Organic Tomato Seed Production Webinar (Organic Seed Alliance)

January 30, 2018
Plant and Reproductive Biology Building Room 1111
Register here.

Organic Seed Growers Conference
February 14-17, 2018
Oregon State University Alumni Center
Corvallis, OR
For more details, click here.

UC Davis organizes a group of attendees for this event each year. If you are interested in attending the seed summit, please contact Amanda Saichaie.

4th Annual California Organic Seed Summit
March 2-4, 2018
Petaluma, CA
For more details, click here.
UC Davis organizes a group of attendees for this event each year. If you are interested in attending the seed summit, please contact Amanda Saichaie.

2018 UC Davis Plant Sciences Symposium
April 16th, 2018
Conference Center
University of California, Davis
Registration details coming soon.

PBC Seminar: Ted Hymowitz
"The Introduction of the Soybean into North America"
March 1, 2018
Seminar: 12:00-1:00PM PES 3001
Student Lunch: 1:00PM-2:00PM PES 2005
Register for Student Lunch here.
Plant Breeding Center Staff:
Charles Brummer

Associate Director:
Allen Van Deynze

Program Manager:
Amanda Saichaie
Student Assistant:
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Plant Reproductive Biology Building
1106 Extension Center Drive
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616

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Plant Breeding Center · 1106 Extension Center Drive · Davis, Ca 95616 · USA

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