About the Job
The University of Minnesota excels in agricultural and environmental sciences. At present, shared University research platforms delivered through core facilities are effectively scaled for the generation of genotypic, metabolic, and environmental data. These data can be analyzed as complex datasets via the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. However, the ability to generate high-throughput phenotypic data to match the size and accuracy of genotypic and environmental data is limited. This impacts the ability of researchers to address complex biological, ecological and agro-economical questions.
To enable University of Minnesota researchers to fully exploit the power of “big data” in biological and ecological research, the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and a selected group of private partners are seeking to develop novel platforms for high-throughput phenotyping and expertise aimed at implementing phenomics for agricultural and environmental research. This effort will adopt off-the-shelf and emerging technologies and capitalize upon University of Minnesota faculty expertise in sensors, robotics and unmanned aerial vehicles, integrating selected technologies into measurement platforms (operational toolkits) that support faculty research by delivering high-quality data. These platforms will operate under a service model to support faculty principal investigators and external stakeholders.
In a first wave of platform development, the focus is on whole plant phenotyping in natural, research or production field, or controlled environments. Future waves of platform expansion may include high-throughput or high-accuracy measurements for laboratory settings and additional targets to be determined on the basis of faculty’s interest, research focus, and state and national priorities. Key objectives of each wave of platform development are: (a) securing technical support of college faculty and private partners for the design and implementation; (b) delivering research platforms that are operational at the necessary scale while retaining flexibility and expansion opportunities; and (c) securing funding from multiple intra- and extra-mural sources for the establishment and operation of the platforms.
The position of High-Throughput Plant Phenotyping/Phenomics Lead is funded for two years with the potential of extension based on demonstrated success in the design and implementation of the research platforms. The position is to be based on the St. Paul campus, reporting to the CFANS Associate Dean for Research or official designee.
Primary responsibilities for this position include:
1. (40%) Plan and develop scope, strategy, and models of operation of a comprehensive high throughput plant phenotyping plan as a first component of the University of Minnesota Measurement Sciences Initiative. Lead the design and implementation of phenomics platforms via engagement with the CFANS faculty and leadership, and private partners. The design should be based on an objective assessment of needs, research priorities aligned with faculty and university strategies, and on feasibility of short-, medium-, and long-term impact on CFANS’ ability to address increasingly complex biological and ecological questions. Maintain continuous alignment with platform evolution strategies at Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, UM Genomic Center, CFANS Research and Outreach Centers, and other relevant University entities. Secure strategic support for the phenomics effort from internal and external partners. Develop and maintain significant understanding of and connection to relevant activities in CFANS, the broader University, other institutions and private companies. The scope of this activity broadly spans from sensing and measurement technologies, to robotics and automation, to data collection and dissemination platforms and technologies (e.g., portable electronics, GPS/GIS, etc.), and to agricultural machinery systems (e.g., tractors, planters, harvesters, etc.) and is closely aligned with the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, the plant sciences departments (Agronomy & Plant Genetics, Horticultural Science, Plant and Microbial Biology, and Plant Pathology), the University of Minnesota Center for Applied Phenomics, the Stakman-Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health, Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, Precision Agriculture Center, and other CFANS departments and units.
2. (20%) Coordinate the development of a portfolio of proof-of-concept or feasibility research projects based on the agreed platform development strategy, faculty’s needs, funding, and funding opportunities, and ability to engage private partners. Provide high visibility for this research portfolio to key stakeholders within the University, among private partners, and with relevant stakeholders.
3. (20%)Lead the development of future education, training, work force development and professional development opportunities using the measurement sciences platforms and their applications to agriculture. Contributions might include developing or enabling workshops or other training opportunities for plant scientists; creating or facilitating opportunities for academic departments to incorporate measurement science and agricultural applications in undergraduate and graduate education and research; etc.
4. (10%) Develop funding strategies to support Measurement Sciences platforms, including identification of internal, external, public, and private sources of funding. Establish models for public-private interactions in the high-throughput plant phenotyping space.
5. (10%) De
● PhD in Agricultural, Biological or Environmental Sciences; Computational Sciences; or Engineering.
● Advanced knowledge of engineering, sensing and data collection and analysis, computational methods and applications, and/or statistics applied to measurement sciences in a plant biology setting.
● Advanced experience in a research setting.
● A keen passion for mastering the rapidly evolving technology field in measurement sciences, engineering and computer sciences related to this discipline, portable electronics, robotics and automation, and “big data” platforms with a demonstrated ability to deconvolute complex targets and adopt various degrees of complexity to the solution.
● Excellent communication and networking ability with internal and external audiences who have a wide range of scientific expertise.
● Strong leadership, networking, and consensus building abilities required.
● Demonstrated ability to secure funding from public and private sources.
● A deep understanding of plant biology.
● Understanding of biological sciences applied to plant systems biology, variety development, agronomy, and/or sustainable production.
● An historic emphasis on phenomics or measurement sciences.
● Excellent knowledge of experimental design and analysis in laboratory and field scale setting for variety testing.
● Demonstrated ability to explain complex modern technologies to other scientists and to non-technical business partners.
● A proven ability to work closely with colleagues on complex projects with a high degree of flexibility and comfort with change.
● Visionary, entrepreneurial, and innovative attitude strongly preferred.