A question & answer session to get to know the 2022 GG Scholar Lucas de Oliviera, 1st year graduate student in the Plant Pathology Program. He has joined the lab of Dr. Dortith Rotenberg.

What aspect of genetics and/or genomics most interests you?

I’m interested in using genome editing as a functional genomic tool to examine the genes associated with vector competence in agricultural pests.

What (or Who) influenced you to go into your field of study?

My greatest professional influences were two teachers in my undergrad. Dr. Patchara Pongam opened the door to research for me, and recommended me for a paid research internship under her colleague, Dr. Tom D’Elia, who is my other greatest influence. Under him, I had the opportunity to lead our lab’s branch of our genome annotation consortium where we curated key genes of interest in Diaphorina citri: vector of citrus greening disease.

Who or what do you hope benefits from your research?

I am currently studying key genes of interest that contribute to vector competence in the western flower thrips. My hope is that my research will aid in management strategies against tomato spotted wilt virus, which is a major detriment to tomato and pepper industries.

How can your research be used to inform decision makers (e.g. policy makers, resource managers, health practitioners, K12 educators, etc etc)?

My hope is that by conducting my research responsibly and staying in communication with growers, I can have a positive impact on the communication of scientific progress and educate those in the community about what solutions are available for the problems they are facing.

What do you think is the most pressing issue or problem in your field of study?

Working in viral pathogens, things change so frequently and viruses evolve at a rate where we have to stay vigilant. Staying on top of that is definitely a challenge for my lab.

How do you expect the GG Scholars program to impact your work?

Considering the context of my research, the year-long project-based GGS curriculum attracts me because of its focus on foundational conceptual training in genetics and genomics. This unique learning experience allows me to gain valuable knowledge that will build upon the skillset acquired through my Plant Pathology coursework and research. Most importantly, GGS membership affords me the best possible start to my PhD experience by providing a strong foundation of support.

How would you describe your research interests to a 3rd grader?

There’s a bug that spreads a bad sickness to plants like tomatoes and peppers. I want to make a good version of the bug that won’t make plants sick.

What’s your dream job?

I want to follow in the footsteps of my undergraduate mentors and become a teacher that can inspire students to pursue careers in science. I also want to provide research opportunities for these undergraduates to make connections between what they learn in the classroom and practical problems that the scientific community aims to address.