Seed World

Robert Duncan Honored with NAPB’s Early Career Scientist Award

The University of Manitoba's Robert Duncan was recognized with the NAPB 2017 Early Career Scientist Award.

During the National Association of Plant Breeders 2017 annual meeting, Robert Duncan was recognized with the Early Career Scientist Award, which recognizes a scientist in early stages of their plant breeding career who exhibits the ability to establish strong research foundations, to interact with multi-disciplinary teams, and to participate in relevant professional societies.

Duncan is an associate professor at the University of Manitoba and leader of the Brassica breeding program. In his nomination package, Duncan was termed “a magnet and energizer for teams. His can-do personality moves through the group and makes him a natural leader for large teams with big vision and the energy to accomplish a vision.”

Duncan was born and raised on a farm near Miami, Manitoba, Canada. His family’s operation was a certified seed production farm. Consequently, he became involved in agriculture and plant breeding at a very early age. He received a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s in plant pathology from the University of Manitoba, in addition to completing an exchange program at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden. He then attended the University of California, Davis, for his doctorate focusing on breeding for disease resistance in dark red kidney bean.

Upon completion of his doctorate, he moved to Texas. There he served as an assistant professor and the state wheat/oilseed specialist at Texas A&M University. In 2012, Duncan was recruited to the University of Manitoba to lead canola and rapeseed cultivar development, concentrating on improvements in seed quality, disease resistance and several agronomic traits.

Duncan has already established a very strong educational component to his program, teaching genetics, advanced plant breeding and cereal and oilseed production practices. He was selected as the 2015-16 Teacher of the Year within the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and won both the University of Manitoba Merit Award for Teaching and the Teaching Award of Merit from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.

Duncan has advised or co-advised 14 graduate students and his students have won 19 local, national and international awards since 2013. Of his last four graduate students to complete their degrees, three are plant breeders within industry and the fourth is in an assistant professor.

Endorsing Duncan’s outstanding qualifications for the NAPB Early Career Impact Award, one of his students wrote: “Over the past three years, Dr. Duncan has been an incredible teacher and mentor to me. As a teacher, he is confident, well-spoken and encourages class participation. As a mentor, he has the ability to inspire passion in those he supervises. Dr. Duncan has helped me discover my own wisdom by encouraging me to work hard toward my end goals.”