Michael Busche


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    University of California - Berkeley

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    I am very broadly interested in plant genetics and genomics and how these tools can be used to combat global food insecurity. I first became interested in this area of research when I began volunteering at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. There I was exposed to realities of hunger that people around the world face on a daily basis as well as the life-saving work that plant scientist were doing to fight this problem. This experience led me to Purdue University where I began to do research in a maize and sorghum genetics lab. My project focused on improving protein digestibility in Sorghum bicolor. Specifically, I was spent my first year developing an assay to accurately screen a large pool of EMS-induced sorghum mutants for those with extreme protein digestibility phenotypes. After developing this assay and screening thousands of mutants over the next few years, I performed bulk segregant analysis on extreme mutants to identify a QTL that segregates with protein digestibility. This information will help future researchers identify genes critical to the control of protein digestibility in sorghum. Genes that confer high digestibility can then be bred for in commercial African cultivars, ultimately decreasing the rampant protein-energy malnutrition that currently persists in much of sub-Saharan Africa. I continue to be interested in agronomically important plant science research as I begin my PhD at the University of California – Berkeley. I have only just begun my program here, but I am currently doing a rotation in a plant development lab. Again, plant development research drew my interest because of its significance in advancing agricultural. Recent, related work done in meristem maintenance pathways has the potential to drastically increase maize yields around the world, and I hope my future work in this area may one day do the same.

  • Profile Question 1
    What lessons have you learned in your career about how science works?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    One of the most important lessons that I have learned about how science works is that it often doesn’t work. Before beginning my own research, I had no idea that so much time would be spent failing, but I now understand that failure before success is a theme common to the careers of nearly every scientist. I’ve also learned that it is important not to be adverse to failure. Making mistakes, trying new things, and learning from failed experiments are some of the most common ways to discover new things. Finally, I’ve come to realize that experiments may not always produce the expected results but this doesn’t mean that the experiment was a failure. I’ve tried to keep an open mind when analyzing experimental data and challenge my understanding of “failure,” in an attempt to better understand how science “works.”

  • Profile Question 2
    What is the coolest thing you have discovered or learned about plants?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    The coolest thing I have learned about plants stems from a fact that virtually everyone on earth already knows: plants don’t move. The sessile nature of plants may seem like a disadvantage to mobile creatures like us, but this fact of plant life has driven plants to become the most incredible chemists and geneticists in the world. When a plant germinates and roots in a spot, it has to be capable of surviving in that location for its entire life. This means the plants have to sense and respond to the incredibly complex and ever-changing external environment all the while growing and developing from a seed into a mature plant. They must also ensure that their offspring will be ready to handle the environment that they will germinate in, with no knowledge of where or when their offspring will germinate. The physical and biochemical changes that this requires as well as the incredible genomic plasticity that must be maintained over the course of a plant’s life are simply astounding to me and offer young scientist a never-ending goldmine of interesting research to be done.

  • Profile Question 3
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    I come from an entire family of engineers. My mom, dad, and all of my siblings are engineers as well as three of my uncles, my aunt, and my cousin. Long before I decided to go into a science career, I decided that I did not want to be an engineer, but as a child I could never make up my mind when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Sometimes I wanted to be an artist or architect, other days, a veterinarian or a wizard. As I grew a little older I began to realize that “wizard” might not be a viable job option, so I started to explore other possibilities. I finally came around to the idea of being a scientist when I realized that the early scientists were just trying to be wizards, too. I began to read books about ancient alchemist and astronomers, eventually working my way through history to Isaac Newton. I was shocked to discover that Newton had spent so much of his life writing about theology, philosophy, and alchemy in addition to his renowned work in mathematics and physics. The revelation that scientist were just people trying to understand the world, through whatever means possible, really appealed to me and led me down a life-long journey of exploring and learning the world around my through a career in science.

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

Leaf DIsk Assay Michael Busche

That's a good hypothesis, Thomas. You could even test that question by itself sometime, if you're curious. Repeat the same experiment but this time use two different carbon dioxide sources, breath and baking soda.

TTWACA Michael Busche

No worries, Luke! Mine was great. I hope everyone else had a great one too.

Leaf DIsk Assay Michael Busche

Even though the light vs. dark experiment didn't turn out like you expected, is there anything that you can conclude from it? If you were to repeat the experiment, would you do anything differently? Why do you think only one floated in the light…


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