Alumni Spotlight: Barbara Christ

Plant Pathology Alumna Barbara ChristBarbara Christ
M.S. 1980

Advisor: James Groth

Current employer/organization & position: 

Special Assistant to the Deans, College of Agricultural Sciences, and Professor of Plant Pathology, Penn State University 

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

My research had focused on breeding potatoes for both disease resistance and for enhanced qualities for the various segments of the potato industry such as utilizing for potato chips, French fries or home cooking qualities.

I am currently an administrator. This aspect of my career started as a Department Head of Plant Pathology at Penn State and then after three years stepping up as Senior Associate Dean of the college. That led me to become the interim Dean for two years.

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

My passion is educating the public on agriculture and agricultural challenges. Secondly to apply what I know in agriculture and have a sustainable agriculture enterprise of my own. My husband and I established a vineyard and winery and we currently employ several staff.

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

I became involved in plant pathology for several reasons. One is that this is very much an interdisciplinary science and it allowed me to use my interest in ecology-related issues. Second, I was interested in assisting farmers with their crop issues.

What's great about the Department of Plant Pathology?

The department had a very close-knit group of students and we were well respected by the faculty. We engaged the faculty and they responded in interacting with us much more than the usual faculty-student relationships.

What was your favorite moment from your time in the department?

The students took the initiative to host a holiday party for the department.

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

There were several faculty who had an impact. Keep in mind that Dr. Stakman, Dr. Eide, Dr. Clyde Christensen and Matt Moore were alive and roamed the halls.

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

I received a broad education in plant pathology that ensured that I could take on new crops and new pathogens to research.

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

Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can and get broad experiences.