Cholani K. Weebadde, PHD
Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences
Assistant Professor - Plant Breeder for International Programs
Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences
Plant and Soil Sciences Building
1066 Bogue Street, Room A-384-D
East Lansing, MI 48824
Area of Expertise:
Plant Breeding and Genetics, Molecular Breeding and Genomics, Agricultural Biotechnology, Environmental Biosafety and Food Safety, Intellectual Property Rights, Technology Transfer, and Sustainable Agriculture
Feed the Future Biotechnology Potato Partnership
Human & Institutional Capacity Development Lead
Fax: 517 432 1982
Cholani Weebadde is an Assistant Professor and the Plant Breeder for International Programs at Michigan State University (MSU). She works with MSU plant breeders to take their research beyond the borders of the United States. She brings together qualified international partners for collaborative research, education, and outreach programs. Support for her current work in Africa and Asia comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, USDA FAS, MSU AgBioResearch, and National programs. Her lab currently focuses on soybean (Gycine soja), white yam (Dioscorea rotundata), potato (Solanum tuberosum), bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), rice (Oryza sativa), and strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) breeding and research. Weebadde has a keen interest in DNA Nanobiosensor technologies for further expanding her research and connecting networks in the developing world through citizen scientists and big data.
Weebadde believes in the exchange of knowledge and information with others to build the next generation of leaders in genetics, plant breeding, and biotechnology. She teaches the Plant Breeding and Biotechnology (CSS 441) course at MSU in the spring of even years. Given that this course requires the knowledge of basic genetics, she has taken the initiative to develop short lessons for students to review basic genetics concepts before coming to class. These primers are publicly available to students and educators around the globe.
Weebadde also teaches New Horizons in Biotechnology (CSS 222) in the Fall of every year starting 2017. Prior to this, she has also taught CSS 350 – Introduction to Plant Genetics at MSU in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, she co-taught this course with Dr. Eric Olson. She also gives guest lectures in other CSS courses (CSS 431 and CSS 120) for undergraduates.
In 2009, Weebadde designed and launched an annual short course on Molecular Plant Breeding to share MSU’s wealth of experiences in marker-assisted breeding with the international community. Given that students in the MSU Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) program could benefit from this course as well, she included sessions for international plant breeders to present their research work at the course as a means of bringing case studies of globally important food security crops that may not be grown in Michigan (eg. rice, sorghum, pearl millet, cassava, tef) to MSU’s classrooms. She partners with several plant breeders at MSU and numerous resource faculty from CGIAR centers and other countries to offer this course annually at MSU as well as in international settings (Ecuador, India, and Sri Lanka).
In addition, she continues to give lectures on various aspects of Plant Breeding as well as on the regulatory and policy areas of biotechnology in other short courses organized by the World Technology Access Program (WorldTAP) at MSU. She also utilizes electronic means to deliver lectures to the international plant breeding community.
As a graduate student at MSU (2000 – 2005), Weebadde served as a teaching assistant for ZOL/BOT 341, an undergraduate course in Fundamentals of Genetics for two semesters. She also tutored three athletes at MSU for this course for an additional semester. During this time, on the recommendation of Dr. Barbara Sears (Instructor for ZOL/BOT 341), Weebadde volunteered to develop a Test Bank for teaching genetics at the College level for Freeman and Company in 2004. In addition, she taught the PLB 800 section 2 – Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology to graduate students. She also followed coursework and seminars offered for the MSU Certification in College Teaching.
Prior to joining Michigan State University, Weebadde served as a teaching assistant and lecturer at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka where she taught a variety of laboratory classes to undergraduate students in plant sciences.
Weebadde has been serving as the Associate Director of the World Technology Access Program (WorldTAP) of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) since 2006. As a member of the WorldTAP team, she provides leadership for education and capacity-building programs in plant breeding and biotechnology as they relate to international agriculture development. Embedded in these programs are collaborative research, training, and resource network building in the areas of Marker Assisted Breeding (MAB) and Genetic Engineering for crop improvement. These programs are offered in collaboration with MSU faculty across various departments as well as resource faculty from other organizations outside MSU. Through these programs, the team has trained more than 500 scientists and professionals from over 50 countries creating an excellent network, which brings multiple benefits for MSU breeders, biotechnologists, and other scientists. The approach to international collaborative research has been to design and implement programs that involve multiple partners and project teams across institutions for mutual benefits to Michigan agriculture and international agriculture.
As a part of the global outreach program, Weebadde has gained experience in conducting training, education, and needs assessments in several countries. She was a member of the team that conducted needs assessments in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mali, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka, which allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of the real needs on the ground, key areas for research, training, and education as well as the local capacity. This understanding is critical in developing a road map for successful capacity building and collaborative programs. Through the training and outreach programs of WorldTAP, MSU has reached out to more than 2000 stakeholders in over 125 countries around the world. Weebadde concurrently served as the Extension/Outreach Team Lead for the USDA-NIFA funded RosBREED Project, a Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) for enabling marker-assisted breeding in Rosaceae crops.
Weebadde has utilized multiple approaches for outreach and extension activities ranging from workshops, “seeing is believing” study tours, training of trainers (ToTs), laboratory/field visits and on-farm demonstration plots, short courses, seminars, forums, side events at conferences, industry roundtables, farmer field days as well as electronic means to facilitate two-way exchanges of information, experiences, and ideas for mutual benefits. Having multiple approaches for outreach is particularly important when working with diverse groups of stakeholders especially on controversial areas such as genetic engineering where there is much misinformation, myths, or lack of evidence-based information. For example, projects that involve building functional biosafety regulatory systems not only require training and educating regulators to make science-based informed decisions but also require educating other stakeholders who influence policy and decision-making such as politicians, lawyers, and farmers some of whom have never seen a genetically engineered crop growing in the field. Many of these high-level stakeholders gain a better appreciation of new technologies when they see it out in the field. Therefore, “seeing is believing” study tours and meeting with farmers growing GE crops are often better options for reaching out to these groups. At MSU, as a part of international biotechnology training courses, team WorldTAP implemented a “Transgenic Teaching Garden” for participants to see the technology in the field. The team also provides them opportunities to interact with Michigan farmers who grow GE, non-GE, and organic crops.
To offer various outreach programs around the world, team WorldTAP developed partnerships with other universities, CGIAR international centers, private sector, regulatory agencies (EPA, FDA, and USDA-APHIS), Non-Profit organizations (eg. Danforth Center), NGOs (eg. IFIC), Farmer organizations (eg. CAIF) as well as worked in close collaboration with specialists from the US and other countries. WorldTAP has also strongly encouraged south-to-south collaborations for knowledge and technology transfer. These partnerships not only broaden MSU’s network but also provides an excellent platform for continuing exchange of information, experiences, and ideas as we move towards building global knowledge societies.
To support and sustain international programs, she has been successful in attracting funds from various external sources. In this process, she has gained considerable experience in the development of proposals and building a donor network that includes government agencies, private foundations as well as private companies. Currently, she serves as a Co-PI on a grant at MSU from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has also been PI and Co-PI in other grants funded by the USDA-FAS, USDA-National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), and USAID. In addition, she has attracted a number of research and training fellowship grants from diverse sources including the World Bank, Kirkhouse Trust in the UK, ICGEB in Italy, and IUSSTF in India.
Since joining WorldTAP in 2004, Weebadde has traveled to over 25 countries around the world for capacity-building activities. Through these travels, she has realized the role that outreach plays in the success of agricultural research and development by reaching out to farmers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.
To further expand international programs in plant breeding, Weebadde hopes to use existing platforms and the strength of the PBGB program to make MSU programs more visible to the international community. In doing so, she wishes to engage MSU’s Alumni network across the globe in win-win collaborative research to reverse “brain drain” to “brain gain”.
- James F. Hancock, Suneth Sooriyapathirana, Nahla Basil, Travis Stegmeir, Lichun Cai, Chad Finn, Eric Van De Weg and Cholani Weebadde (2016). Public availability of a genotyped, segregating population may foster marker assisted breeding (MAB) and quantitative trait loci (QTL) discovery: A example using strawberry. Submitted to Frontiers in Pant Science.
- Y.C. Aluwihare, M.D.M. Chamikara, N.N.H. Karannagoda, D.R.R.P. Dissanayake, R.A.G.B. Ranawaka, M.I. Tennakoon, D.N. Sirisena, W.L.G. Samarasinghe, C.K. Weebadde and S.D.S.S. Sooriyapathirana (2016). Screening of segregating F2 progenies and validation of DNA markers through bulk segregant analysis for phosphorous deficiency tolerance in rice. Ceylon journal of science 45(2): 87-101.
- A. Iezzoni, C. Weebadde, C. Peace, D. Main, N.V. Bassil, M. Coe, G. Fazio, K. Gallardo, K. Gasic, J. Luby, J. McFerson, E. van de Weg and C. Yue (2016). Where are we now as we merge genomics into plant breeding and what are our limitations? Experiences from RosBREED. Acta Hortic. 1117. ISHS 2016. DOI 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1117.1. XXIX IHC – Proc. II Int. Berry Fruit Symp.: Interactions! Local and Global Berry Research and Innovation.
- Aluwihare Y.C., Ishan, M., Chamikara, M.D.M, Weebadde, C.K., Sirisena D.N., Samarasinghe, W.L.G. and S.D.S.S. Sooriyaopathirana (2016). Characterization and selection of phosphorus deficiency tolerant rice genotypes in Sri Lanka. Rice Science, 23(4): 184-195.
- Marasinghe, M.M.P.C., Mawalagedera, S.M.U.P., Ishan, M., Dunuwille, S.W.M.B., Janaththani, P., Dayananda, A.G.M.L.K., Weebadde, C.K., Yakandawala, D.M.D. and S.D.S.S. Sooriyapathirana (2016). DNA based authentication of Solanum melongena var. insanum (V. Elabatu) roots in herbal medicine market to circumvent the use of noxious adulterant, Solanum melongena (V. Eggplant) roots. Journal of Science, Eastern University, Sri Lanka. Vol.7 No.1. pp 35 – 54.
- Suneth S. Sooriyapathirana, Sonali Mookerjee, Cholani K. Weebadde, Chad E. Finn, Kim Lewers, Jill M. Bushakra, James J. Luby, Philip Stewart, Stuart Neils and, James F. Hancock (2015). Identification of QTL associated with flower and runner production in octoploid strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa). Journal of Berry Research 5:107-116.
- Chamikara, M.D.M., Ishan, M., Karunadasa, S.S., Perera, M.K.D.I., Rajapaksha, P.I., Lelwala, R.V., Kasthuriarachchi, V.D.W., Jeyakumar, D.T., Weebadde, C.K. and, Sooriyapathirana, S.S.D.S. (2015). Morphological and microsatellite marker analysis of fruit size and shape in selected accessions and commercial cultivars of Capsicum spp. in Sri Lanka. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies (IJMS), 2(1); 29-50
- Castro, P., Bushakra, J.M., Stewart, P., Weebadde, C.K., Wang, D., Hancock, J.F., Finn, C.E., Luby, J.J., and Lewers, K. (2015). Genetic mapping of day-neutrality in cultivated strawberry. Molecular breeding; 35:79
- Yue C, Gallardo RK, Luby J, Rihn A, McFerson J, McCracken V, Gradziel T, Gasic K, Reighard G, Clark J, Weebadde C, Sebolt A, Iezzoni A. (2014). An investigation of United States peach fruit producers trait prioritization—evidence from audience clicker surveys. HortScience 49(10):1309-1314.
- Yue C, Gallardo RK, Luby J, Rihn A, McFerson J, McCracken V, Oraguzie N, Weebadde C, Sebolt A, Iezzoni A. (2014). An evaluation of U.S. tart and sweet cherry producers trait prioritization: evidence from audience surveys. HortScience 49(7):931-937
- Yue, C., Gallardo, R. K., Luby, J., Rihn, A., McFerson, J. R., McCracken, V., Whitaker, V. M., Finn, C. E., Hancock, J. F., Weebadde, C. K., & Iezzoni, A. F. (2014). An evaluation of U.S. strawberry producers trait prioritization: Evidence from audience surveys. HortScience, 49(2), 188-193. ISSN: 00185345
- Moualhi, I., Galhena, H., Maredia, K., & Weebadde, C. K. (2014). Perceptions of non-Europeans on biotechnology in Europe: Bridging the knowledge gap. Asian Biotechnology and Development Review, Vol. 16 No.2:43-52
- Jayawardena, W.A.D., Jayasekera, G.A.U., Wijesundara, R.L.C., Dissanayake D.M.N., Sooriyapathirana, S.D.S.S., Weebadde, C.K., Perera, K.L.N.S., Gunapala, K.R.D., & Hettige, P. (2014). Evaluation of DNA markers linked to blast resistant genes, Pikh, Pit (p), and Pita, for parental selection in Sri Lankan rice breeding. Tropical Agricultural Research, Vol. 26 No.1:82-93
- Perera, M., Weebadde, C. K., Hancock, J. F., & Sooriyapathirana, S. (2014). DNA fingerprinting for the precise identification of commonly grown Fragaria x ananassa (strawberry) varieties in Sri Lanka. International Conference of Agricultural Sciences.
- Mawalagedera, S.M.U.P., Janaththani, P., Dunuwille, S.W.M.B., Perera G.A.D., Weebadde C.K., Wijesundara, D.S.A., and Sooriyapathirana S.D.S.S. (2014). DNA marker analysis reveals genomic diversity and putative QTL associated with drupe traits in Phyllanthus emblica L. Ceylon Journal of Science (Bio. Sci), 43 (2):31-46
- David P. Keetch, Diran Makinde, Cholani K. Weebadde and Karim M. Maredia (2014). Co-editor of book, Biosafety in Africa: Experiences and Best Practices.
- Cholani Weebadde, Karim Maredia and Diran Makinde, 2014. Capacity Building in Biosafety: NEPAD Agency ABNE Approach to Building Functional Biosafety Systems in Africa. Book chapter for Biosafety in Africa: experiences and best practices.
- Mawalagedera, S.M.U.P., Ishan M., Perera G.A.D., Weebadde C.K., and Sooriyapathirana S.D.S.S. (2014). DNA based methods to differentiate Phyllanthus emblica L. (Nelli) from Phyllanthus acidus L. (Star Gooseberry). 3rd International Conference of Eastern University, Sri Lanka
- Yue, C., Gallardo, R.K., Luby, J., Rihn, A., McFerson, J., McCracken, V., Bedford, D., Brown, S., Evans, K., Weebadde, C., Sebolt, A., and Iezzoni, A. (2013). An Investigation of U.S. Apple Producers’ Trait Prioritization—Evidence from Audience Surveys. Hortscience 48(11): 1378-1384.
- Joseph Guenthner; Karim Maredia; Cholani Weebadde. 2012. Forces influencing developing country views of agricultural biotechnology: An analysis of training programme participants' perceptions, International Journal of Biotechnology, 12(3):170-183.
- Karim M. Maredia; Joseph F. Guenthner; Cholani K. Weebadde. 2012. A biotechnology short course for developing countries, Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, 19(1):12-15.
- Rebecca Grumet, James F. Hancock, Karim M. Maredia and Cholani Weebadde. 2011. Co-editor of book, Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops. MSU Press.
- Karim M. Maredia, Joseph F. Guenthner and Cholani K. Weebadde. 2011. Biotechnology for a Better World: An International Short Course for Developing Countries. Asian Biotechnology and Development Review. Vol. 13 No. 2, pp 31-42. 2011, RIS.
- C. K. Weebadde and K. M. Maredia. 2011. Environmental Issues associated with Transgenic Crops, Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops. MSU Press.
- K. M. Maredia, C.K. Weebadde and J.A. Komen. 2011. Capacity Building in Biosafety. Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops. MSU Press.
- Iezzoni, A., Weebadde, C., Luby, J., Yue, C.Y., Peace, C.P., Bassil, N., and McFerson, J. 2010. RosBREED: Enabling marker-assisted breeding in Rosaceae. Acta Horticulturae 859: 389-394.
- T. Sengooba, R. Grumet, J. Hancock, B. Zawedde, L. Kitandu, C. Weebadde, M. Karembu, E. Kenya, K. Meredia, P. Nampala, J. Ochanda, H. Quemada,M. Rubindamayugi, 2009. Development and delivery of biosafety education relevant to genetically engineered crops for academic and non-academic stakeholders in East Africa. Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, Vol. 12 No.1 (Available online at http://www.ejbiotechnology.info/content/vol12/issue1/full/6/)
- C. K. Weebadde, D. Wang, C.E. Finn, K.S. Lewers, J.J. Luby, J. Bushakra, T.M. Sjulin and J.F. Hancock. 2008. Using a Linkage Mapping Approach to Identify QTL for Day-neutrality in the Octoplid Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch ex Rozier) – Journal of Plant Breeding. Vol 127 N 1, p 94 -101
- K. M. Maredia, C. Ransom and C.K. Weebadde. 2008. Intellectual Property Polices and Practices in South Asia Region. Proceedings of the Special Session on South Asia at the Annual Meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers, March 2008., San Diego, California, USA
- D. M. Karunaratna, C. Weebadde and D. Sarathchandra, 2008. IP Policies and Technology Transfer Practices in Sri Lanka. Proceedings of the Special Session on South Asia at the Annual Meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers, March 2008., San Diego, California, USA
- K. M. Maredia and C.K. Weebadde, 2007. Agricultural Biotechnology and Emerging Global Linkages: Perspectives from Michigan State University. Proceedings of the Asian Biotechnology, Innovation and Development (ABIDI) – Issues in Measurement and Collection of Statistics, Research and information Systems for Developing Countries, New Delhi, India, January 2007
- C. Cronquist, C. Weebadde and K. Maredia. 2007. Building Sustainable Biosafety Education Capacity: Training of Trainers Program in Biosafety/Biotechnology. Policy Brief. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
- J. F. Hancock, C.K. Weebadde and S. Serce. 2007. Challenges Faced by Day-neutral Strawberry Breeders in the Continental Climates of the Eastern USA and Canada – Hort Science
- Cholani Weebadde and Clarice Mensah; Report of Breakout group 2: How Will We Provide Improved Varieties of Specialty minor and Subsistence Crops in the Future? HortScience vol. 41(1), February, 2006.
- Dieudonné Baributsa, Cathy Weir, Cholani Weebadde, Suresh Kumar and Karim Maredia; Building Human Resources and Institutional Capacity in Emerging Areas of International Agricultural Development. Proceeding of the 7th African Crop Science Society Conference, Entebbe, Uganda, December 2005.