As an undergraduate studying biotechnology at UC Davis, I have had my eyes opened to a multitude of innovative technologies. Over the almost three years of my undergraduate journey, I have witnessed a genome-edited calf, learned about CRISPR, and most importantly, have been introduced to the world of crop and food production through this fellowship program. I never would have imagined that plant biotechnology and agriculture would ignite a passion to pursue a career within these disciplines.
Food insecurity and agricultural challenges are significant global issues and modern advancements in technology and biology can intersect to solve these. I am passionate about these concepts, and as an AIFS Career Exploration Fellow working with the Ronald Lab, I have been able to learn more about what exactly I am interested in and what I can do with my interests to create an impactful change.
The Ronald Laboratory studies genes that control resistance to disease and tolerance of environmental stress with the goal of improving food security. While aligning with my interests, this fellowship has mainly provided me with an inside look into what is driving the operation. I have been assisting with the KitaakeX mutant line project, which aims to catalog and research different mutants of Kitaake with different traits. KitaakeX is a mutant population that was fast-neutron induced. Currently, 3200 lines are sequences and 2871 lines are fully analyzed, which are viewable on the KitBase database. Not only have I been working with rice in its multiple growth stages, but I have also been able to explore the computational aspect of genomics, something I never expected to hold interest in. I have come to learn and appreciate the impact computational biology and bioinformatics possess in agriculture.
The opportunity to work with individuals who have dedicated their careers to this field is truly inspiring and has helped me narrow down and define my own career path. A typical day for me truly does not exist when I spend time at the Ronald Lab. For example, I have been privileged to handle the actual rice plants being studied and assist with crossing and transferring rice shoots. On other days, I have been learning introductory HTML and working on the Ronald Lab’s website. The ability for me to be able to take part in so many pieces of the puzzle have guided my journey. My mind has been opened to opportunities dealing specifically with crops that are significant in feeding the world. Though I started with just an interest in plant genetic engineering, I am now seeking a career specifically involving food security.
To me, one of the most startling takeaways I have gained from this fellowship is the potential of expanding my knowledge base and career through pursuing a graduate degree. For as long as I can remember, I have avoided entertaining the thought of graduate school, yet through this opportunity, I have discovered that graduate education is more than what I previously believed it to be. Through a presentation from a graduate student at the Ronald Lab, I was intrigued by the possibility of being able to pursue one’s own research ideas, all the while receiving guidance and advice from a tightly knit community of fellow scientists. Earning a PhD or master’s degree opens one up to a greater field of research and opportunities, which would benefit me in achieving my career aspirations.
Thanks to this fellowship, I have been privileged to follow the process of groundbreaking research and even participate. This has inspired me to continue with the major I have chosen and take it farther than I have anticipated.
Sudha Vasudevan, 21-22 Innagural Undergraduate Career Exploration Fellow