Jessica Waite, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington State University, has been hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fill an empty pear research geneticist position.

Jessica Waite
Jessica Waite

Waite’s start date has not been determined, said Jim Mattheis, research leader at the Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Wenatchee.

However, when she switches posts, she won’t have to go far. She currently works at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, which shares the same Wenatchee campus.

Waite’s work will focus on identifying genetic factors that influence disease resistance, tree size, precocity and other attributes of pear rootstocks, Mattheis said. The pear industry wants rootstocks that perform well in the Pacific Northwest, to enable the development of new cultivars and more efficient production systems.

Waite has been working under Lee Kalcsits, a tree fruit physiologist, studying the molecular pathways of fruit acclimating to sunburn. Before that, she worked at the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia.

The Northwest Horticultural Council, based in Yakima, Washington, had lobbied the federal government for more than 10 years to hire a pear geneticist at the ARS lab.

—by Ross Courtney

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