A knack for finding the kernel of truth—whether in a field of potential corn varieties, as a moderator in a heated debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or as a consensus builder about the future of the college—has made Margaret Smith, professor of plant breeding and genetics, a valuable scholar and public servant for the state of New York.
As a Cornell undergrad, Smith concentrated on plant breeding, a passion she still pursues as one of the few remaining public corn breeders in the United States. She has developed hardworking hybrids adapted to New York soils and weather and conducted research to support crop sustainability internationally. Smith also serves on the advisory committee of an international dryland cereals research program based in India.
Smith has provided college-wide leadership in applied research and extension in the Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics, as associate director for Cornell Cooperative Extension from 1998 to 2001, and currently as the associate director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES). Her current role requires the stewardship of Hatch federal research funding, which has provided support for hundreds of projects across the campus. In recent years, Smith has assumed a role as a trusted voice in the debate about GMOs, sharing information and insights with audiences around the state.
Her leadership in CALS was recognized with a 2012 award for Outstanding Service to the CALS Community. Smith joined the faculty in 1987 and has served as the associate director of CUAES since 2008.