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As manager of HeinzSeed's Research program Rich Ozminkowski is responsible for coordinating the global breeding objectives and experimental variety evaluation. “Tomato breeding is a matter of organizing the genes of a tomato. My objective is to develop new varieties that will please growers, processors, and consumers.” He must ensure that everything is planted at the appropriate time and location, that data collection is complete and accurate on each line, and that everything can be tracked completely over generations.
While earning his PhD in Horticulture, Ozminkowski was very active in the department and was able to serve as the graduate student representative to the departmental computer committee and the University Patents and Trademark committee. Though activities were an important aspect of his education, Ozminkowski says, "having an advisor who was able to provide guidance and personal attention, and who was as interested in my project as I was, was probably the single most important factor in my graduate career." He recommends building relationships with professors and industry members through working in labs and attending scientific meetings early in one's academic career, well before graduate school.
The Heinz Tomato Breeding Program makes hundreds of new hybrids each year but advances only a handful few each year after 5 years of extensive evaluation. "To have a tomato processor or grower express their excitement about one of these new varieties is quite rewarding." Ozminkowski grew up gardening and working with plants and now cherishes his plant science career because “I don’t have to spend all my time sitting in an office, I spend a lot of time outside during the season, and have greenhouses full of my favorite vegetable during the winter.”