As a post-doctoral research scientist at Michigan State University, Dr. Julius Jackson in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics introduced me to studies in genome evolution, which I have incorporated into my present research in evolutionary viral genomics. I also studied viral DNA replication, and was introduced to the world of viruses while working on my dissertation, also at Michigan State University, in the lab of my graduate advisor, Dr. Michele Fluck. My current research career focus is a result of what I learned in both labs—I’ve combined the two experiences.
My experience this summer at the Broad Institute has been very rewarding on two major fronts: First, I have acquired new skills and tools (including a bit of PERL programming) that I will be put to immediate use upon my return to Jackson State University. There, I manage the Laboratory for the Study of Viral Evolution- more affectionately known as the LOVE lab. We have been very interested in learning more about possible patterns of viral genome evolution in Hepatitis C virus.
My work at the Broad has involved studying aspects of genome evolution in Dengue virus, which is in the same viral family as Hepatitis C. Being in an environment where these types of questions are being explored on a daily basis has sharpened my skills in terms of posing biologically relevant questions, developing testable hypotheses, designing appropriate frameworks and choosing appropriate tools with which to test these hypotheses.
Secondly, and equally important to me has been the opportunity to interact with undergraduate students in The Summer Research Program in Genomics. In fact, I was extremely pleased that one of my undergraduate students, Stephanie Hughes, was selected to participate. Working here will give her greater exposure to the genome sciences. It will also position her for possible graduate studies in this area since she has committed to a career in research.
I see a lot of potential in the students I have met and interacted with here this summer as well as my students back in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson State University has a great track record of graduating African Americans with biological science degrees; in fact, a study published in the 2006 issue of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education (Borden and Brown) found that Jackson State is second nationally in that category. I’m in a great environment to have a positive impact, by exposing more African Americans to a wider variety of options in the sciences. If I can do, say or interact with students in a way that will expose them to potential careers that they have not thought of, that’s what keeps me motivated. I am excited for my students at Jackson State University about the potential for future research experiences with the Broad Institute.