This post is part of a series of blog posts written by incoming and second-year graduate students in the Early Graduate Fellowship Mentoring Program. Students were asked to provide a brief description of their research interests and how they came to those interests.
My interest in my current research, fungal innate immunity, began back in my freshman year of undergrad. The science departments were having professors present their research to students who were considering doing scientific, lab-based, research. Shortly after, I inquired about joining a lab lead by Dr. Emily Monroe, where I would later work on characterizing genes in terms of secondary metabolites produced in a cyanobacteria, Moorea producens. This led me to learn more about secondary metabolites, particularly how many are toxins produced not only by cyanobacteria, but also in fungi. During my junior year I started to look for summer internship possibilities as well, and found an REU, research experience for undergraduates, held at Cornell University in their Plant Pathology section. It dealt with a secondary metabolite toxin called victorin produced by Cochliobolus victoriae, a pathogen of oats which causes victoria blight. Besides the research, the internship also hosted several seminars on current topics in the field where I had my first introduction into plant pathology, specifically the back and forth between virulence and resistance genes, with virulence factors and effectors. The dynamic between the host and pathogen with their suites of proteins and molecules was elegant to say the least, and instantly attracted my interest. So when it came time to look for graduate school programs I knew it was definitely the field I wanted to apply for. After looking over dozens of professors and their research I found Dr. Koabayshi’s which dealt with the bacterium Lysobacter enzymogenes and the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, the bacterium being pathogenic to the fungus. His lab looks at both sides, the genes involved in pathogenesis and the importance of them in relation to one another in the bacterium, and the fungus’ innate immunity that has not been thoroughly researched in any fungus.