Agronomy professor Shawn Kaeppler was recently honored with the National Association of Plant Breeders’ Lifetime Achievement Award, an award designed to recognize distinguished long-term service to the plant breeding discipline through research, teaching, outreach and leadership.
Kaeppler received his B.S. degree in Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1987, and his Ph.D. degree in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota under the mentorship of Ronald Phillips. He was a faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1992 to 1995 in the role of Plant Cytogeneticist. He has been a faculty member in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1995 working in the areas of Maize Genetics and Breeding and Crop Functional Genomics.
He has served as the Director of the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center since 2016. Kaeppler is a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America and has been recognized as a Rothermel-Bascom Professor and Campbell-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has served as Editor of Crop Science, on the Maize Genetics Executive Committee, on the Genomes to Fields Executive Committee, and is incoming president-elect of the Crop Science Society of America.
Kaeppler has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in plant breeding and plant genetics, including an undergraduate Plant Breeding and Biotechnology course that introduced a number of students into careers in plant breeding.
From a childhood that included judging dairy cattle, Kaeppler has been fascinated by genetics and breeding. An overall passion has been understanding how genetic variation results in altered phenotypes, and how that knowledge can be harnessed to make better crops. His collaborative team has made significant discoveries in crop epigenetics, somaclonal variation, and crop genome composition including extensive presence-absence variation. He has made important discoveries in maize seed size and composition, and maize abiotic stress tolerance.
As outcomes of his research goals, he develops maize lines with utility to seed producers in the northern maturity zones. His team at the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center develops transformation and editing approaches for many crops including new genotype-independent approaches for previously recalcitrant crop species. Dr. Kaeppler accepts this award recognizing the strengths of his amazing colleagues, collaborators, students and staff throughout his career. Discoveries made as part of a strong team effort are always the most fulfilling and enjoyable.