Christine Lucas, a corn breeder at Beck’s in Atlanta, Ind., graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014 with a doctorate in plant breeding, genetics and cytogenetics. Today, Christine uses modern plant breeding techniques including dihaploid breeding, molecular markers, and Beck’s state-of-the-art greenhouse facility for trait conversion and inbred development.
Although Christine was not raised on a farm, she grew up in the small farming community of Harvard, Illinois. Knowing communication skills would be valuable assets for sharing facts and ideas, Christine obtained a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006. Her interest in plant breeding and genetics began when the heated debate surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) demanded global attention in the early 2000s. Christine was surprised by the seemingly one-sided media coverage regarding GM corn and sought to understand the genetics. Christine was accepted into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Crop Sciences master’s program within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in 2008, and then into the doctorate program in 2011.
As a member of the Maize Functional Genomics Laboratory at U of IL, Christine studied the genetic, molecular and physiological basis for kernel composition traits, including grain protein and starch. She collected phenotypic data from experimental populations and associated it with genotypic data collected on the same group of plants. Gaining knowledge about maize genome and the tools to study important economic traits helped Christine prepare for a successful career in corn breeding.