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Iowa State University Students Take Different Paths to the Same Place

Posted on October 4, 2013 at 9:07 AM by Iowa Corn

from left - Dr. David Ertl, Dr. Pat Schnable
and Dr. Kendall Lamkey
On Sept. 23, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board announced the Iowa Corn Promotion Board Endowed Chair in Genetics at Iowa State University. This endowment is to fund research in corn genetics far into the future. The announcement, held at the Scheman Building on the ISU campus was familiar to three former students - reunited agronomy professionals with a common history.


Dr. Pat Schnable, professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, is the inaugural recipient of the Iowa Corn Endowed Chair position and is very involved in understanding the corn genome. Pat has a long history of working with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and was a key researcher in the initial sequencing of the corn genome. Also present at the announcement luncheon was Dr. Kendall Lamkey, Chair of the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State. Dr. David Ertl, the Technology Commercialization Manager in the research department at Iowa Corn was integral in establishing the position. 

But, these three professionals paths’ have crossed before- Pat, Kendall and David were graduate students together at Iowa State University in the Department of Agronomy back in the early 1980s.  Pat was studying corn genetics, Kendall was in the corn breeding group, and David was in the soybean breeding group. The three of them spent a lot of time together in seminars, classes, labs and in the field.  Then they graduated and went off on their own career paths. But through a convergence of circumstances involving the funding of this chair, the three former students were reunited. It’s the first time the three of them have been together in more than 30 years.  

“Being part of this Endowed Chair announcement representing the Iowa Corn Promotion Board is certainly a professional honor, but is even more meaningful for me as a former student with Pat and Kendall,” says Ertl. “It’s great to be able to come together again in our professional careers for such a significant announcement.  In addition, I will continue to have the opportunity to work closely with Pat as he serves in his new role as the Iowa Corn Promotion Board Endowed Chair in Genetics.” 

This Chair position will be focused on understanding the genetic code of corn and leveraging that knowledge to improve corn productivity. It provides a permanent source of funding for corn genetics research at Iowa State and it provides an opportunity for some of Iowa State’s former students to once again work together.

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