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OSU graduate student has a passion for plant science and volunteering

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

For Oklahoma State University plant and soil sciences master student Jennifer Tapia, her interest in biology and plant science sparked from a young age.


Maybe that was due to growing up in Ecuador, a country known for its vast biodiversity and natural resources. 


Tapia obtained her bachelor's degree in biotechnology engineering at The Armed Forces University in Ecuador. She worked in two internship positions in Ecuador before coming to the U.S. where she completed two additional internships – one geared toward isolating and identifying pathogens of grapes from Oklahoma vineyards, and the other investigated the colonization and infection process in the tan spot-wheat pathogen system. 


“During my internship I attended some lectures in Professor Bob Hunger’s class. One was Host Pathogen Interactions where I learned about plant diseases, molecular techniques and growing wheat in Oklahoma,” Tapia said. “This inspired me to pursue a graduate degree in a related area. 


I applied for the master’s program in the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Dr. Liuling Yan was the first professor to respond. His area of research met all the expectations that I had for my graduate studies. Not only have I learned many things working in his lab this past year, but I have also been provided the opportunity to pursue my goal of getting a graduate degree.”


Tapia is using a genetic mapping approach to identify natural mutants and gene editing technology for the creation of critical mutants with important agronomic traits needed in wheat breeding. These desirable traits include heading date or flowering time, spike architecture and resistance to insects. Tapia’s research is supervised by Professor Liuling Yan.


OSU immediately felt like home when she visited Stillwater for the first time, and her favorite part of student life is the knowledge she gains every day in Yan’s lab.


“My passion for OSU comes from the people,” Tapia said. “I have met incredible people during my time here that have not only helped me overcome obstacles I have faced but have also inspired me to do my best every day. When I am around them, it makes me feel like I am not far from home because they have become like a family for me.”


Tapia enjoys volunteering and spends time every Saturday caring for kittens at Tiny Paws. 

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