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'Broad wingspan' reaches for excellence
Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2007
By Evan Epstein, Contributing writer
Kimberlee Kidwell came to the Palouse in 1994 to conduct biotechnology research in wheat genetics. She has done that — and much, much more.
Since 1998, she has introduced eight spring wheat varieties that have had a major impact on Washington state agriculture.
“Farming is the grassroots of our country. The impact of wheat research on farming is highly motivating for me and that’s why I came here,” said Kidwell, Marian E. Smith Achievement Award recipient.
“My job is to improve products in the form of spring wheat varieties for Washington farmers to grow in their fields. If we publish a lot of scientific papers without helping farmers, I would have failed my mission here.”
In addition to research, Kidwell excels in the teaching arena. She developed a peer-reviewed grant proposal writing component as part of her graduate teaching. And she teaches a course in human development (HD 205) called Communication in Human Relations.
HD 205 helps students expand their university experience by incorporating life skills into the curriculum. Students participate in community service projects that they design and execute in alignment with community needs.
“The relationships that come from that course are really great because it opens up students to a sense of home here in Pullman,” said Kidwell. “It makes Pullman real and purposeful to them.”
Apparently Kidwell’s example and leadership ring true with students — more than 400 signed up for the course in 2005-2006.
“It would be hard to find another scientist in the U.S. that breeds wheat, trains graduate students and teaches a course in human development on communications, teamwork and service to society,” said William Pan, chair and professor for the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. “Dr. Kidwell is dedicated to helping students improve their life skills, which transcends her responsibilities as the spring wheat breeder for WSU.”
“I think the most important thing I could say to anybody is to dare to dream,” said Kidwell. “What I love about working here is my wingspan is very broad. I am very grateful for the people who have stood up for me — it’s made me a better teacher, researcher and colleague.”