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Jahn set for Bioscience Conference

WORTHINGTON -- Molly Jahn, the acting under secretary for research, education and economics at the United States Department of Agriculture, will discuss new opportunities for rural agriculture during her keynote address Friday at the sixth annual Regional Bioscience Conference.

"I'm very involved in setting priorities; I'm a scientist myself," explained Jahn. "I work with stakeholder needs. I spend a lot of time listening to people talk about ways in which they would like to see the USDA involved."

Jahn, who most recently served as Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Director of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, said her work now focuses on research that occurs within the USDA, food health and safety, the environment and alternative energies and public education.

"We have a long history of working with educational institutions at all levels to ensure we have good ... education in the field and ensure a strong talent pipeline for the institutions that depend on the USDA," she said.

Jahn said she'll address opportunities for industry and innovation in small, rural communities.

"Worthington is a town in the heartland, and as someone who was born and bred in the Midwest, (I) know there's typically a great community there: great schools, a great workforce," she said. "I think that's increasingly understood to be a good asset for communities."

"As technology has advanced, it's increasingly possible to set down a business anywhere on earth. ... There are many wonderful stories across the country where you'll see a state-of-the-art food testing center in a rural community or an investing firm in a rural community."

Jahn said she is looking forward to visiting Worthington, where she will also speak about agricultural research opportunities for small groups and colleges like Minnesota West.

"The traditional model for research is individual professors at universities doing their own research, but networks and teams of people who have different relationships to problems are very useful as we bring forward solutions," she contended. "It increases opportunities for groups far beyond the ivory tower."

In addition to her keynote address at 10:15 a.m., Jahn will be the featured speaker during a tour of Minnesota Soybean Processors at 8 a.m. Friday, during which time she'll talk about alternative energy sources.

As a scientist, Jahn's research has focused on the genetics, genomics and breeding of crop plants. She has worked in Africa, Asia and Latin America to link crop breeding objectives to improvement in human nutrition and income.

A winner of the Award of Excellence from the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2009 and Dairy Communicator of the Year in 2008, she earned her graduate degrees from Cornell and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.