Meet Oluwatoyosi Adaramodu, also known as Lisa, co-founder of Afro in Bio and winner of the 2023 PCA Travel Award. She will be presenting a poster at the Single-Cell Approaches in Plant Biology Gordon Research Conference in Ventura, CA on July 30 - August 4, 2023. Read an interview with Oluwatoyosi (Lisa) Adaramodu below!
Interviewer: Can you share a bit of your background?
“I am a proud Nigerian and the daughter of a low-income, single parent. I earned my undergraduate degree in plant biotechnology from a Nigerian institution and completed my master’s degree in China at the University of Chinese Academy of Science last year. Each identifier holds significance to me because there was a time when I believed it wasn’t possible to embody all of these at once. I experienced firsthand the limitations that STEM education in Africa presents for students like me. The lack of laboratories, qualified STEM teachers, high student-to-teacher ratios, and limited financial resources meant that STEM education in many Nigerian universities was limited to theoretical learning with little to no research opportunities.
My interest in plant molecular research became more apparent when I participated in a six-month Plant Biotechnology training program at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Abuja, Nigeria, as well as the National Centre for Genetic Resource and Biotechnology in Ibadan, Nigeria. These experiences helped me to apply what I had learned in class to real-world research.
Desiring to expand my knowledge of plant molecular biology and genome engineering, I applied for the Plant Developmental Biology master’s program at the Institute of Botany, University of Chinese Academy of Science. I applied through the Belt and Road Fellowship program and was fortunate to have Professor Jing, a renowned plant genomics researcher in China, supervise me. Currently, I am a first-year PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania, under the guidance of Professors Brian Gregory and Brent Helliker.”
Interviewer: What are your research interests that you hope to pursue?
“As a new graduate student at UPenn, my research interests focus on crop improvement in the face of climate change, specifically through the adaptation of grasses to drought stress. My interest in crop plants began during my undergraduate years, and continued through my master’s degree, where I conducted research on 250 sorghum lines from different origins across the globe to examine their response to salt stress through genome-wide mapping, identifying novel QTLs/genes, and screening novel germplasm for salinity-tolerance. This research formed the foundation for my current research interests. I am now interested in studying bulliform cells, a type of cell found only in grasses, and their role in the adaptation of grasses to drought stress. Through my research, I hope to contribute to the development of more drought-tolerant crop varieties, ultimately contributing to the stability of food systems in the face of climate change.”
Interviewer: How do you think the Plant Cell Atlas benefits your research?
“The Plant Cell Atlas provides me with valuable opportunities to further my research career in academia, as well as to enhance my current research on the potential of bulliform cells in food security. One of the main benefits of the Plant Cell Atlas is the opportunity to connect with leading experts in plant single-cell research. This allows me to gain valuable insights and perspectives on the latest research and advancements in the field, which would in turn inform my own research and help me to identify new areas of investigation. Additionally, the Plant Cell Atlas provides me with opportunities to network with other researchers and scientists, both established and early career, which could lead to future collaborations and opportunities for further research.”
Interviewer: You are a co-founder for Afro in Bio. Can you share more about how that got started, what is it about, and what are some of the goals of Afro in Bio?
“My friend, who is a PhD student at Yale, and I started Afro in Bio in 2022. It is a community for Africans in biological science around the world. We wanted to create a space where African scientists could connect with each other, share their experiences and knowledge, and support each other in their careers. The goals of Afro in Bio are to provide a platform for African scientists to connect, share resources and information, and support each other in their career development. We also aim to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of biological science by highlighting the contributions of African scientists and providing opportunities for underrepresented groups to succeed in the field.
Since its inception, Afro in Bio database has grown to include members from various countries across the globe. We believe that by bringing African scientists together, we can create a supportive community that will help to break down barriers and promote success in biological science.”
Interviewer: What are your future career aspirations?
“Upon completion of my PhD degree in biology, my future career aspiration is to secure a postdoctoral fellowship position that will allow me to delve deeper into my research interests in plant stress biology. Specifically, I hope to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying plant response to environmental stressors and the potential applications of this research in improving food security and sustainable agriculture practices."
Interviewer: How did you find out about the PCA Travel Award and what motivated you to apply?
“I found out about the award and the conference through one of the professors in my department whose class on cell signaling I took last semester. I told her about my interest in Bulliform cells and single-cell transcriptomics in plants.”
Interviewer: What are some things you are looking forward to when you attend the Gordon Research Conference in Single-Cell Approaches in Plant Biology this summer?
“I am excited about attending the Gordon Research Conference in Single-Cell Approaches in Plant Biology this summer, as I am looking forward to presenting a poster on my research for the first time. Additionally, I am eager to meet researchers whose papers I have read, which I hope will provide me with valuable insights and potentially even lead to future collaborations.
My current research focuses on the potential of bulliform cells to improve food security, as it has been demonstrated that these cells have a crucial role in plant tolerance to environmental stress. Attending the conference would allow me to learn about the latest research on plant stress response, which would inform my own research and help me to identify new areas of investigation. In addition, by presenting my own research on bulliform cells at the conference, I would be able to receive feedback and comments from experts in the field, which would be extremely valuable to improve my research.”
Interviewer: Dr. Kevin Cox.
Written responses by: Oluwatoyosi (Lisa) Adaramodu
If you are interested in Oluwatoyosi (Lisa) Adaramodu’s work, please follow her on Instagram (@the_nigerian_phd), Twitter (@yoursorghumgirl), or contact her through email (oadar@sas.UPenn.edu).
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