Alumni Spotlight: Brent McCallum

April 2, 2018

Plant Pathology Alumnus Brent McCallumBrent McCallum
Ph.D. 1995

Advisors: Jim Groth and Alan Roelfs

Current position: Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 

Tell us about your current research or work involvements and their impacts.

I work on wheat diseases, primarily wheat leaf rust. My research group conducts an annual virulence survey for wheat leaf rust in Canada. We test wheat lines that are registered as the new cultivars and provide ratings on the relative resistance of these cultivars which goes into the Provincial seed guides. We research various aspects of wheat diseases including discovering new sources of resistance, determining the genetics of resistance, molecular mapping, marker development and incorporating resistance into new wheat cultivars.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?

I enjoy working as part of a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to the goal of improving wheat health and productivity. I enjoy learning from my colleagues about their fields of expertise. It is rewarding to work with graduate students and post-docs as they improve their skills and knowledge and develop their own careers.

Why did you get involved with Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.

The University of Minnesota and the USDA Cereal Disease Laboratory have been central to the research on cereal rusts with many outstanding researchers past and present. I was fortunate to be able to join this group and continue to enjoy interacting with many of these researchers. The graduate students in the Department of Plant Pathology were excellent colleagues, from many different countries, they were good friends and we learned a lot from each other.

What's great about the Department of Plant Pathology?

The Department of Plant Pathology has a long history of excellence and this inspires everyone to pursue their own goals. Everyone is helpful and the teamwork among the members of the department helps to build on the synergy of research.

Who was someone in the department who inspired you/made an impact in your career and why/how?

I had excellent advisors at the University of Minnesota. Jim Groth and Alan Roelfs were my official advisors, but I also worked in Les Szabo's lab and learned a great deal from Les. They are all outstanding researchers, but they were also great teachers and mentors.

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

The U of M gave me a broad education and built on my abilities to understand a wide range of subjects. This is excellent training for a career that can encompass a diversity of research subjects, and involves collaborators with different skill sets than my own.

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

Enjoy your time in the Department of Plant Pathology. There is always pressure as a graduate student to do well and publish your research, but you are learning and developing your career and interacting with great people in the process.