PhD in plants, breeding, genetics and biotechnology. student Ashley Wright focuses on strawberry research and teaching about improving science literacy in non-STEM subjects.
Ashley Wright is a PhD student in the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) program at Michigan State University (MSU). She is researching resistance breeding in strawberries while pursuing a college teaching certification.
“My interest in plant breeding was sparked by an influential science teacher in high school,” she explained. “After several discussions with her about my interest in biotechnology, GMOs and hydroponics, she found the PhD in Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB). program at Michigan State University! Since then, my goal throughout my undergraduate years was to be accepted into the PBGB program. My dream finally came true and I started my graduate degree in January 2021!
Established in 1981, the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) graduate program is a collaboration between MSU’s departments of Forestry, Horticulture, Plant Biology, and Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences. Students carry out research on agronomic, forestry and horticultural species and research is possible in areas such as applied breeding and genetics, molecular biology, diseases, insect and herbicide resistances, abiotic stressors , molecular mapping, quantitative genetics, gene isolation and genomics.
Wright’s passion for agricultural sustainability is eclipsed only by his absolute love of strawberries.
“My audacious overall goal is to bring the strawberry out of America’s ‘dirty dozen’. I work primarily on screening for resistance to various diseases – common leaf spot and gray mold – in our MSU strawberry germplasm while maintaining exceptional fruit quality, flavor and productivity,” Wright said.
His long-term goal is to release strawberry varieties with built-in plant resistance to reduce the berry’s environmental impact. She also aims to continue to assist in the successful launch of an international online certificate course titled “Plant Breeding to Fight Hunger”.
She plans to use this experience, combined with her knowledge of plant breeding and her experience in college teaching, to develop course content that is accessible to breeders around the world. Ultimately, she would like to continue working for MSU in a research and teaching capacity.
Wright is one of the 2022 CANR Alumni Association Scholarship recipients.
Last name: Ashley Wright
Hometown: Jenison, Mich.
Degree in Progress (Masters, PhD and any sub-program): PhD in plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology; certification in college teaching.
Expected Graduation Date: Dec. 2025
Research focus : My audacious overall goal is to raise the strawberry from the “dirty dozen” of the United States. I work primarily on screening for resistance to various diseases (common leaf spots and gray mold) in our MSU strawberry germplasm while maintaining exceptional fruit quality, flavor and productivity. I also planned and planted a preliminary yield trial in the summer of 2022 with strawberry selections I made based on field data from 2020 and 2021. The yield trial includes 81 selections, MSU lines and cultivars. This trial will focus on our exceptional flavor, fruit size and resistance to common leaf spots while determining plant productivity.
Pedagogical guidance: Improve science literacy in non-STEM majors. The final science experience for most non-STEM majors is a general education requirement. Often these courses do not prepare students to deal with real-world issues like COVID-19 and understand the difference between fact and fiction in the media. My teaching project focuses on using short 10-15 minute activities at the start of each class period, focused solely on improving science literacy. The idea is that if we can give several small practice sessions in determining the credibility of sources, reading science in the news, communicating science in the news to peers, and arguing from evidence, this will allow our students to be better citizens and to make more informed choices. in their future. For me, science education is not about memorization or even about science itself. Science education is the art of teaching students how to think and make decisions based on evidence.
What inspired your interest in your field of graduate study?
My interest in plant breeding was sparked by an influential high school science teacher. After several discussions with her about my interest in biotechnology, GMOs and hydroponics, she found the doctorate in plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology. program at MSU! Since then, my goal throughout my undergraduate years was to be accepted into the PBGB program. My dream finally came true and I started my graduate degree in January 2021.
Why did you choose to study at MSU?
I chose to study at MSU because of its excellent agricultural programs and opportunities.
What has been one of your best experiences in the doctoral school so far?
I was nominated for the 2021 Harlo Mork Excellence in Teaching Award. The best moment was before the ceremony with Susie Jackson (coordinator of the lab for which I am a teaching assistant (TA)) with our awards together.
What do you want others to know about this program?
The PBGB program is an inclusive group that offers several opportunities to interact with professors and other students.
What are some of the best things about being an MSU student?
The opportunity! MSU offers many options for clubs, community involvement, volunteerism and more.
Any ideas or tips for current or new students?
Take time for yourself. Life can be busy, crazy and stressful, but you can say no and take the time to enjoy your life. Life happens now, not after school, so remember to take advantage of the time you have!
What are your future plans?
I would like to continue working for MSU in a research and teaching capacity. However, I still have three years left, so I will explore any opportunities that come my way!
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