Emily Kolbe

This week’s featured scientist is Emily Kolbe, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. She is a member of the Woody Plant Lab and in the Department of Applied Plant Sciences: Plant Breeding and Genetics. Emily is currently studying rose black spot disease. She is studying two populations of roses that have novel resistance genes inherited from a resistant parent. The purpose of the study is to investigate how the resistance genes are passed down to the progeny by conducting inoculations with different isolates of black spot races.

Image by Shannon Ferguson


How did you get into the work that you do?

I got interested in working with roses during my undergraduate career at UW-River Falls. My advisor there, Dr. David Zlesak, also works with black spot and inspired me to continue my education.

What questions do people always ask when they learn about what you do? What is your typical response?

Honestly, when I say I work with roses, the question I usually get is “really?!?” My response is always “yes really.” I sometimes also have people ask questions about what I do with the roses, in which case I give them a brief description of my work with the inoculations and maybe some results if they’re interested in hearing more. 

What is one of your favorite aspects of your work? What is the most challenging?

I love that I get to work with such a beautiful plant. Roses are amazing plants, and I’m happy that I can help glean more information on their genetics to help breeders as they try to create a more disease-resistant plant. 

One of the biggest challenges in my work is the thorns. When I’m performing my work, a lot of prep is needed, and most of it is related to removing leaves of a certain age from each of the plants to conduct the inoculation. In the greenhouse where my rose populations are, they’re three deep on the bench, and the father of the cross is a climbing rose, so many of the plants have long, gangly canes that I have to follow to get the right age of leaf to inoculate. Needless to say, you can always tell when I just prepared for an inoculation because I look like I got into a fight with a cat.

If you could study any one topic or idea, and money/time/equipment/ were not an issue, what would you study?

I would love to study more about scent in roses. That’s something that not a lot of work has been done on, and I would love to learn about how it’s inherited, what genes cause it, and the different scent profiles that are possible.

Outside of your scientific studies, what other subjects or interests do you enjoy?

I enjoy music, cooking and baking, reading, and caring for my two reptiles (bearded dragon named Pistachio and leopard gecko named Georgia)

What is a fun fact that few people would guess about you?

My go to answer for this type of question is that I sing the National Anthem for sporting events. I’ve been an anthem singer since I was a freshman in high school, and I’ve sang for over 200 sporting events of various types. Basically, if it’s a sport, I’ve probably sang for it.

Header Photo by Danica Stradecke