Kayla Vittore (University of Illinois, Urbana – Champaign) is working on soybean cyst nematode lifecycle in pennycress at the University of Minnesota with IPREFER collaborator Cody Hoerning.
Kayla’s Internship Project: I was investigating the effect of genetic mutations in Arabidopsis orthologs on rates of seed shattering in Field Pennycress. Since the genes I considered are in the seedpod formation pathway of Arabidopsis, and since the two plant species have many similarities in genetics, it was thought that mutations in one would have the same effects in the other. However, based on the data presented, it appears that this is a false assumption. Ergo, in future studies, Arabidopsis could be used as a reference, but should not be used as a guaranteed guide to genotype cause-and-effect.
Why I applied: Reading about the IPREFER project, I was really excited about the idea of working on a novel crop. Most of my classwork so far had focused on the traditional soy and corn crops, so research on domesticating pennycress was a whole new world of ideas to explore or challenge. Another factor was that I’ve never lived outside of Illinois, and even when I went away to college I was still close to family and old friends. I wanted to experience living outside of my comfort zone, to test my skills of independence and see who I am when I go anonymously into the greater world. Spending a summer at UMN seemed like a reasonable compromise between craving new experiences and being cautious about leaving home.
The most important thing I have learned in my internship: I’ve learned that I’m not only capable of collaborating in a research team, but that I genuinely enjoy it. This is the first job that when I wake up in the morning, I’m looking forward to work instead of dreading it. Before IPREFER I had a lot of uncertainty about if I could handle science as my profession — what I’ve learned is that I’m addicted to it.
My post-graduation plans:This internship has shown me that there are a lot more possibilities and support available to graduate students than I’d assumed. After talking with my mentors about their experiences in research and graduate studies, I’ve finally decided that I will apply to graduate programs for plant or crop research.