Brianna has participated in several undergraduate research projects, the most recent of which involves sequencing the genomes of fungi.
Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Christine Hawkes, Integrative Biology
Briefly describe your research project.
At UT, I have been fortunate enough to work on three major research projects. My current focus is in a microbial ecology lab with Dr. Christine Hawkes. I am working on a fungal genomics project where I am sequencing, assembling, and annotating two novel fungal genomes. By leveraging both the genomic and transcriptomic data from these fungi, I hope to discover genes that influence the antagonist or mutualist traits of these fungi with their plant hosts.
Describe the tasks you engage in as part of your work.
This project relies heavily on bioinformatics. Once the DNA extraction and sequencing steps were complete, the entire project became quite computational. The lab and I have primarily utilized the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which offers some of the world’s most powerful computing resources. The Joint Genome Institute, part of the US Department of Energy, has also been an invaluable resource for the annotation phase of my research.
Describe what you thought college might be like before you came to UT. Did you consider research when thinking about college?
I truly had very little idea about college life when I first came to UT. I knew it would be challenging, but I didn’t know in what ways. I also did not know that research was a career option. I had never known anyone who conducted research, and I thought higher education was for the Einsteins of the world, which is certainly not me. I entered college on the pre-medical track, but that quickly changed once I discovered research.
Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
Because of this project, I have met with professors at my future graduate school who bioengineer plant-fungi symbioses to optimize agricultural practices. My research interests revolve around the interactions of humans with their environments, and I think fungal research certainly has a place in these types of research questions.
What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?
I would tell them to go for it. Students at UT are so privileged to have such innovative research at their fingertips. Research is conducted in all fields, and the skills that research fosters will help you no matter where you end up in life. Join a lab or two (or four like I did) as an undergraduate. See what you enjoy. Experiment with your experiments. Research has defined my undergraduate education, so I encourage students to at least explore the possibilities of research while they can. UT has several resources, including the Office of Undergraduate Research, that can help students get involved in and really enjoy research.
Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week takes place in the middle of April each year. Take a look at the online schedule of events to find out more about Research Week events.