Sean Kim

Graduate Student - Ellison Lab


Shelby Ellison

Research Focus

Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics MS


Madison, WI

Where did you complete your undergraduate/master’s/PhD?

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Sean smiles brightly. Sean wears a backwards baseball cap and stands in a greenhouse growing hemp.

What is your research about and what is the impact? How does it relate to the horticulture industry, what is the goal?

The goal of my research is to identify genes responsible for producing purple pigments (anthocyanins) in Cannabis sativa. Purple is a very popular trait because of its aesthetics and the potential effects it has on users. Identifying genetic markers that influence anthocyanin accumulation will substantially increase the efficiency of cannabis breeding programs, while opening the door for more visionary breeding. This research will be necessary to improve our genetic understanding of cannabis. By identifying genes or regions on the genome responsible for purple colors in cannabis will allow breeders.

What inspires you to do the work you do?

The amount of people that I can help in my lifetime and the ripple effect our research could have. I would like to build a breeding program and an institution where people can breed, grow, and research cannabis. I would like to create customized medicine for patients that will be available for everyone long after I am gone. This will involve creating specific chemotypes in cannabis that can help specific patients. From here, collaborative research projects can help provide information on our observations.

What was the path you took to work in plant sciences? And then what advice would you give to your younger self to get into the field/career you are in today?

I took a break from school and spent some time outdoors to see what I wanted to do with my life. I fell in love with nature and plants. My curiosity grew the more time I spent outside and explored. I started taking classes to gain a better understanding of plants and how the natural world works. I wanted a career that would surround me with plants every day. I always loved cannabis since I was young, so I took this knowledge to explore something I was passionate about. I started to do independent research on cannabis and haven’t looked back since. Thanks to Dr. Brian Barringer at UWSP, I was able to conduct my own research with cannabis during my undergrad. With Dr. Barringer’s help, I was able get into the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics Program here at UW-Madison where I am currently doing research on my favorite plant!

If I could give my younger self some advice, I’d say keep doing what makes you happy and do everything with love, the universe will handle the rest.