“Our findings will enable scientists to maximize corn yield through selective breeding, improving the quality of corn used in animal feed and fuel production.” —Kay Lee

By Kay Lee ’20

Seongnam, South Korea

Biology

Last summer, I participated in research in a corn genomics lab at the University of Minnesota. I learned about the program while talking to a Mac biology professor, and I am glad that I reached out to her for advice. Our research focused on how the corn genotype affects the phenotype—in other words, how corn’s genes give rise to its different physical traits. Ultimately, our findings will enable scientists to maximize corn yield through selective breeding, improving the quality of corn used in animal feed and fuel production.

Over eight weeks from June to August, I learned to carry out various tasks in the lab and out in the field, such as weeding, pollinating, and seed grinding. My favorite was near-infrared (NIR) scanning—using near-infrared light to scan ground corn’s surface—because it uses the most scientific and technological methodology. From different wavelengths of light reflected by corn particles, an NIR scanning machine can identify corn’s composition by moisture, starch, fat, protein, and fiber. While the technology seemed complicated at first, I quickly got used to it and became confident running the tests myself.

Overall, I am grateful that I was able to have my first research experience in this lab. The professor and the lab supervisor were friendly and answered any questions I had. Most of all, I felt that we were a close team, and I liked working toward the shared goal of improving corn as a crop plant.

November 15 2018

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