From left to right: Dr Mike Bradfield, Dr Jens van Bebber, Dr Andrew Cromie and Prof Jesus BaroAlpha Genes hosted a visit from four students of the 1992 MSc in Animal Breeding graduate class to talk. Dr Andrew Cromie, Dr Jens van Bebber, Prof Jesus Baro and Dr Mike Bradfield talked to us about their interesting and impressive careers since finishing their MSc.

They shared some lifelong lessons:

“Always be there for each other” – Andrew,

“Just because its written down, don’t take it as fact” – Jens,

“Learning from the best” – Mike,

“Don’t be afraid modify your models/tools in line with circumstance” – Jesus.


The Kenya visit

In the start June, Jon went to Kenya to discuss his work with our collaborators at ICRISAT (Nairobi), to collect a phenotypic and genotypic dataset for his future PhD work on orphan crop Finger millet, and to gain practical experience in the field as a plant breeder. He spent 6 weeks in Busia, a small town in Kenya bordering with Uganda, working at Kenyan Agricultural and Research Organisation (KALRO) station, Alupe, learning about ICRISAT’s breeding activities in finger millet, sorghum, and other local crops. For the majority of time, he spent working in the field trial collecting. His trial was a part of ICRISAT’s East African breeding program for finger millet, so healso visited ICRISAT’s site in Uganda to meet with the collaborators there including Johnie Ebiyau who developed the famous Epuripur sorghum and is one of Africa’s most distinct plant breeders. On a daily basis, he also had an opportunity to visit and interact with a number of famers closely working with ICRISAT and to see ICRISAT’s efforts and difficulties on the ground.


Jon lived with a revenant’s family which was an excellent opportunity for him to learn about the culture and religion. 

Jon and his hosting family

We are grateful to SRUC and our colleagues in ICRISAT (namely, dr. Henry Ojulong and dr. Damaris Odeny) to have made this unique opportunity possible for Jon. The experience helped him gain a wider understanding in plant breeding and the work carried out by CGIAR centres in low- and middle-income countries. He also gained a good understanding of production constraints Eastern African countries face. We are sure Jon learned a lot on a personal level as well which will definitely benefit him in the future. 

Jon finished his Kenya Visit by summiting Mount Kenya (4985m), the highest mountain in Kenya and second-highest mountain in Africa.

LGBTQ+ in STEM Day 2019

AlphaGenes supported celebrating the LGBTQ+ In STEM Day.

A link to the LGBTQ+ in Stem Day 2019 at the Roslin Institute is available here

Robin Thompson had made fundamental and extensive contributions over many years to the development of applied statistics and to the genetic improvement programmes. This was recognized following his nomination by colleagues by the award of a Doctorate honoris causa (Dhc) by the University of Edinburgh on 30 June 2018. To further mark the occasion, an international symposium was held at the Roslin Institute, organized by John Hickey and Gregor Gorjanc, when current and former colleagues and PhD students of Robin presented talks about aspects of his research achievements, reporting and/or developing them as appropriate. Asko Mäki‐Tanila, as Editor of the Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics, encouraged submission of papers based on these talks and now comprise this special issue. These cover many of the talks presented at the symposium. At the end of the Fest Issue, we have several PhD students, local and international collaborators writing about their experience on working with Robin.

The papers cover much of Robin’s biography, notably his “Desert Island Papers.” Another source of Robin’s biography and scientific development and achievement is included in an interview he had with Bill Hill on 13 August 2012, organized and archived by Ron Lewis of the University of Nebraska (

We hereby take the opportunity to congratulate Robin for all his achievements, assistance and friendship. We thank him for all his help to students and colleagues. We also note another side to Robin: His wife Harriet has become increasingly physically handicapped over the years, and he is her loving carer. Yet he has continued to contribute continually to science and its application.

A link to the Special Issue of the Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics in honour of Robin Thompson is available here