What got you interested in plants and plant science?
I became interested in sustainability and alternative energy sources, which led me to look at research on plants as biofuel feedstocks. The potential to use molecular biology to engineer a better biofuel crop was fascinating to me, and this is what inspired my interest in plant biology.
What is your research about?
My research is on the lipid metabolism of a model microalga called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Algae can accumulate oil under stress conditions, and this oil can be converted into biodiesel fuel. There's a lot of interest in unraveling the oil biosynthesis pathways of algae, and my research uses isotopic labeling and analysis of flux through metabolic networks to do so.
What is the potential societal impact of your research?
As the supply of petroleum fuel decreases and the impacts of global climate change become more pronounced, there will be high demand for renewable, carbon neutral fuel sources. Microalgal biodiesel could play a part in a more sustainable future, and research that will allow us to increase microalgal oil yields will increase the viability of microalgae as a biofuel candidate.
How has your graduate career been impacted by your campus and educational experiences?
MSU has a lot of great programs and resources to help graduate students explore different career paths. For example, if one is interested in science communication there are many outreach opportunities to both young people and the general public. I also know of students who were interested in science policy and traveled to Washington, D.C. to learn how to communicate science to lawmakers. For my part, I participated in an industrial internship this summer at a company called Synthetic Genomics to explore the difference between research at a company versus an academic setting. This was a highly valuable experience, and it helped me refine my future career interests.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to be an assistant professor at a university with my own lab at that time.
On a Saturday afternoon, you'll likely find me:
Walking dogs at Capital Area Humane Society or playing board games with friends.