Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Eric Cassetta

Phenomic Breeding Technician

Born and raised in Arizona, Eric now lives in Salina. He received a BS with a major of Biological Sciences (Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology) and a minor in Philosophy from Arizona State University. He was employed at a functional genomics lab that worked exclusively on plants, where they grew many of the species they studied, similar to the work of TLI.  He also worked in a conservation corps based in Flagstaff, AZ, where they conserved and restored many of the ecosystems in parks and nature areas. He says this is relevant to some of the underlying goals of TLI and most of his important education happened/s with the people he knows and experiences outside of a classroom.

Eric was an intern at TLI the summer of 2018, doing project specific work with the crop protection genetics (CPG) program. He returned in 2019 as a research resident working with both the CPG and perennial oilseeds programs on the above ground diseases of Silphium, then covered the soil ecology technician position in 2020-2021.

Watch Eric explain some of his current work.


What’s most inspiring about your specific position at TLI?
What is most inspiring about my position are the people around me. The enthusiasm of everyone about our work and their research is inspiring!

What has been your proudest moment at TLI?
When I was a Research Resident, I made a hybrid between Silphium integrifolium and Silphium terebinthinaceum. These two species are challenging to cross. Out of MANY seedlings, only a few were morphologically an interspecific hybrid. I am proud of those few plants.

What drew you to work at TLI?
The work here caught my attention because it has a beautiful blend of sustainability and applied scientific research, two of my passions.

What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?
I surprisingly spend a lot of time hunched over plants shining different lights at them!

What TLI perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?
I would love to wake up on a cool spring morning and fry up an egg in some Silphium oil. The oil would add a great, rich flavor.

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?
I have a passion for foraging interesting things, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, plant ID, eating sweet treats, many things really.

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
I would write a book about ratios of everyday life. The perfect ratio to peanut butter and jelly, the ideal ratio of shade to sun under a good sittin’ tree, the iconic ratio of root to shoot of different plants, etc.

What is your motto / favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – Albert Camus

What were you like at age 10?
I was always the kid with a little too much energy that could never sit down and focus.

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