What aspect of genetics and/or genomics most interests you?
I am ecstatic to be in the midst of the genomics era. As I continue my PhD trajectory, I’m continuously astounded by the depth at which our knowledge exceeds. I’m learning that there is so much more to the genetic code than I was previously taught and now I’m learning the skills and tools we use to arrive to these complex conclusions. It’s all very exciting.
What (or Who) influenced you to go into your field of study?
Being a first-generation college student, I really looked up to my three undergraduate advisors for guidance. They facilitated an environment where I was allowed to make mistakes, ask questions, explore my research interests, and ultimately succeed. They encouraged me to apply to graduate school after sharing that I wanted to continue with research because I never wanted to be done learning. We still stay in touch and they continue to be some of my biggest supporters!
Who or what do you hope benefits from your research?
I’ve transitioned into a research role looking at the human microbiome that relates to human health. Of course, I’m hoping I can contribute to our understanding on how the microbiome affects not only adverse health conditions, but also improving gut health via prebiotics and probiotics. On a much smaller scale, I’m also focusing on disseminating scientific knowledge to make science more accessible and more inclusive for those without the proper channels to do so by participating in citizen science programs in low-income areas in Durham, NC.
How can your research be used to inform decision makers (e.g. policy makers, resource managers, health practitioners, K12 educators, etc etc)?
By participating in citizen science programs, I’m hoping to raise awareness on the need for quality educational resources in low-income areas. I’m hoping to recruit other graduate students to participate as well to encourage more scientific communication within the community.
What do you think is the most pressing issue or problem in your field of study?
I think STEM in general is becoming increasingly inaccessible and out of reach for underrepresented groups. Scientific literature, valuable knowledge, is mostly exclusive to scientific journals with astronomical fees for not only access to information, but for publishing as well. I can see this being a barrier for those without the resources to be able to advance scientific knowledge. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to learn about and contribute to science which can ultimately lead to all of society to benefit from. Other scientists cannot be the only beneficiaries of scientific advancements!
How do you expect the GG Scholars program to impact your work?
I think the GG Scholars program will help me broaden the scope of how I approach research methods, troubleshoot challenges, and ask probative scientific questions. It’s so important to obtain multiple perspectives in the STEM field, especially as we are starting to see fields of study such as mine, functional genomics, that draws from several areas from genetics, bioinformatics, and molecular biology.
How would you describe your research interests to a 3rd grader?
There are tiny little bugs that live with us in our body. They’re mostly friendly bugs that help us stay healthy but there are also bad bugs that can cause us to get sick. To keep the friendly bugs happy, we eat healthy foods like yogurt, fruits and veggies, and our vitamins. If we eat things like candy all day every day, we will upset the friendly bugs and the bad bugs will take over!
What’s your dream job?
Because my research involves microbiology, my training will also include fermentation practices. My dream job is to travel to different wineries and breweries to educate wine makers and brewers on fermentation processes, while also drinking tasty wine and beer!