175 Biotechnology Building
Ithaca, NY 14853
Karl A. Kremling is an NSF-supported graduate student in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell who is interested in the vast majority of the genome that isn’t occupied by genes. By using corn as a model organism to look for functional genetic variation outside of genes, Karl hopes to unlock novel diversity that can be used to breed more resource-efficient crops. Karl develops robotically assisted high throughput laboratory techniques and applies statistical approaches to find functional elements en masse.
Why I am becoming a scientist
As a child I always liked to tinker and build structures with Lincoln logs and now I get to figure out how to build better plants.
After taking an especially stimulating biology class from a teacher named Mr. Austin at the beginning of high school, I was sure I wanted to learn more about genetics and evolution. I still remember the first time I understood how natural selection worked; I went outside with new eyes and tried to understand why everything that was alive looked and behaved a specific way.
In college I studied Spanish and Biology at a liberal arts college in Iowa called Grinnell, but despite the corn all around me, it was only by chance that I participated in a summer internship where I came to better understand how genetics shapes all plants including those that humans cultivate. With the intention of improving my Spanish and knowledge of agriculture, I organized an independent study abroad and went to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico. There I got my feet wet in applied research as part of a project to increase the vitamin content of African corn varieties to reduce juvenile blindness. I soon discovered this really meant using pipettes to set up thousands of reactions on a device called a PCR cycler. While the time at CIMMYT cemented my interest in crop improvement, I realized that the lab work alone wasn’t satisfying for me. With this memory still fresh, I put down my pipette and came to graduate school at Cornell to learn not only about crop genetics, but also about how statistics and computers can be used to better harness the abundance of genetic and phenotypic data our interdisciplinary field is now producing.
Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Biology, Grinnell College