Alumni Spotlight: Haiyan Jia

October 8, 2015

Plant Pathology Alumni Spotlight Haiyan Jia2005, M.S. Plant Pathology

Advisor: James Kurle

Current employer/position: Pepsico, Variety Creation Lead

What do you do in your current role?

As Variety Creation Lead in the Agro Discovery & Sustainability team at PepsiCo, my responsibility is to lead the development of advanced breeding technologies to accelerate the improvement of agro raw materials concurrently improved for productivity, processing ability, and consumer preference and benefit. We achieve this through partnerships with public and private collaborators. 

What is your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?

My passion is to apply my knowledge and experience to research and product development in agriculture/crop science. My current role is across crop: from oat, potato to corn and citrus, etc. My work impacts the agro raw materials that make many household name products such as Quaker Oats, Fritos, Lay's and Doritos chips, and Tropicana juices. I am so proud that my work can create healthy, nutritious and fun food and beverage products for people around the globe.

Why did you get involved with Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota? 

I heard a lot about the department during my undergraduate experience in China. I was awarded the first Wang Huanru Fellowship for outstanding performance at the Agricultural University of Hebei. Professor Wang conducted wheat stem rust research with E.C. Stakman in 1945 at UMN and became one of the pioneers for China's wheat rust research. My former advisor, Dr. Daqun Liu, obtained his PhD from the department. In 2000, I met the former department head Dr. Pfleger in China when he visited my former university with a delegation of UMN professors.

What's great about the Department of Plant Pathology?

The world-renowned legacy of the department and the global impact the department and its alumni have created. I had the honor to meet Dr. Norman Borlaug twice on campus and had memorable conversations with him.

How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?

In addition to excellent mentors, the department offers well-designed curriculum, high-quality courses, plus unique internship opportunities. Thanks to the department for making my graduate experience so meaningful and enjoyable.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?

Keep an open mind about your career. Always think about how your work/research can make an applicable impact in the real-world.

Other information you would like to share:

After obtaining my PhD in 2009 from the Department of Agronomy & Plant Genetics, I left the U for 6 years. I recently moved back to 210 Borlaug Hall for my current job. I am so excited to be back on the beautiful campus!