Meet A Plant Pathology Graduate Student: Lauren Jackson
Advisor: Bob Blanchette
Previous Degrees: B.S. in Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, 2013
M.S. in Plant Pathology, University of Arizona, 2015
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
What is your research focus?
My research is aimed toward identifying, characterizing and comparing mechanisms of wood decay by fungi from the sub-phylum Agaricomycotina. Specifically, I'm interested in the strategies employed by fungi to colonize various lignocellulosic substrates and what controls their respective host-specific or generalist lifestyles. This work will be conducted using transcriptomic and secretomic approaches corroborated by chemical analyses and electron microscopy. I also hope to explore and reveal non-cannonical aspects of lignin decomposition such as secretion pathways, microbe-microbe interactions, non-enzymatic proteins and circadian control via genome editing and functional biology experiments. Lastly, I am interested in the functional biodiversity of tropical wood-decaying fungi.
What is your favorite group of fungi?
Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) due to its agricultural, biotechnological and medicinal relevance.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
My favorite things to do are playing games and getting outdoors with my significant other and two daughters. I especially enjoy accompanying my friends and family on fungal forays! I am also a craft beer enthusiast on a quest to find (and imbibe) the best IPAs and IIPAs available.
What is plant pathology to you?
Plant pathology is a dynamic field of study in which plants, disease causing agents, plant health-promoting microbes and abiotic factors must be accounted for individually, and in concert, in spatiotemporal contexts. The work undertaken by plant pathologists seeks to improve agricultural productivity and biotechnological process to address some of the most pressing issues that we face as a society including climate change and feeding a population that is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050.
Why did decide to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota? Tell us about your path to Plant Pathology.
Two words: Bob Blanchette. My previous work involving the use of white-rot fungi for bioremediation applications introduced me to the literature concerning wood decay and the relatively limited group of fungi that have the capacity to degrade lignin. Encountering this literature revealed many fascinating questions that remain to be explored. Dr. Blanchette's work has been instrumental for our current understanding of wood decay and he has served as an incredible mentor for many other scientists. Furthermore, his lab is comprised of hard working people with positive attitudes and interesting research ideas, and I am thankful to become a part of this team.
What do you hope to accomplish in your time at the University of Minnesota, and what are your goals for the future?
My current goals are just to become a better scientist by acquiring new tools, learning to ask better questions and adopting the habits of those I respect the most. Presently, I recognize a need to improve my understanding of, and ability to apply, many molecular methods. My future goals are to serve as a researcher and professor at a major research university, but I remain open to opportunities in industry or governmental agencies.