Photo of Susna K. Brown

Susan K. Brown (Jason Koski/UPHOTO)

After graduating with one undergraduate degree in plant science, Susan K. Brown went on to obtain two advanced degrees, hold three concurrent academic titles and develop four trademarked apple varieties. Although it may seem as easy as 1-2-3 for Brown, her career exemplifies many years of hard work. Here is more about her.

What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? I received a BS in plant science in 1978.

What class was most useful to you? The botany and plant breeding classes I took made me want to have a career studying plants and breeding new and improved varieties. The thought that I could create a plant that had not existed before was exciting.

Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn. I remember when the state of Connecticut essentially closed due to a major snowstorm. All of UConn enjoyed the snow day, emptying the one local store (There was no downtown Storrs at that time.) of bread, peanut butter and beer.

I enjoyed having fun with friends. These people, including my husband Marty, who graduated in business in 1977, became lifelong friends. In addition, I remember going to football and basketball games in the old field house and trips to the Dairy Bar, Tolland Pizza and Raps restaurant for meatball subs.

Please describe your current job. I am the director of Cornell’s Geneva campus (the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station), an associate dean in our College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a professor in our School of Integrative Plant Sciences and an apple breeder/geneticist.

My breeding program has released several cherries and four apples, with the two most recent apples trademarked as SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™. They are doing well commercially and will be marketed internationally soon. In addition, I am working on varieties for hard cider production.

Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life? I knew I would be involved in plant breeding, but I thought it would be in ornamentals, not fruits. However, apples have ornamental properties and produce fruit to enjoy. I never envisioned having an administrative role.

Do you have any advice for current students that will help them in the future?

  • Find your passion and then follow it.
  • Remain curious and ask, “Why?”
  • Feel free to show your enthusiasm.
  • Take courses in clear, concise communication to improve your writing and public speaking. That training will help you in any career path.
  • Take some general courses to build a foundation.
  • Get to know your professors! You will make a valuable network, and if you ask for a letter of recommendation, they will have something solid to write about you.
  • Have fun, because these four years will go much faster than you think.

By Patsy Evans