The Sweet Potato Expression Atlas
The domesticated sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a staple food, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. It has many nutritional benefits, including high carbohydrate, fiber, and vitamin content. Ensuring a hearty and healthy sweet potato crop is therefore crucial to maintaining this important food source. Current threats to sweet potato yield include drought, certain fungal diseases including root rot, and sweet potato weevils, incredibly damaging pests. Creating a crop that is both resistant to these threats and has greater starch and protein yields could be possible by turning to the 14 crop wild relatives of sweet potato, each of which has unique traits that could improve sweet potato growth. The genomes of two of these relatives, I. trifida and I. triloba, have recently been sequenced. Using these genomes and existing transcriptomic data collected from these relatives under a variety of stress conditions, genes and networks of interest can be identified for further study.
Through my work in the Mueller Lab this summer, I gained a great appreciation for open and accessible science. Being in an environment where our work aimed to make research available to all, which could, in turn, improve not only crop production but also benefit lives gave this project a clear purpose. Seeing the collaborative nature of the lab was also motivating, especially since the Mueller Lab is a non-traditional computational group, and demonstrated to me how bioinformatics requires just as much communication as traditional research. This sense of working for a common goal will stay with me as I continue my career as a scientist.
At BTI, I learned new computing languages and became very familiar with the troubleshooting process. With the help of my mentor, I feel more confident in my abilities as a computational biologist and have strengthened my desire to work on similar projects that combine technology with biology. Through my experiences both in the lab and with my fellow students, I feel more assured about continuing with my educational journey in graduate school and am grateful to everyone who made this program possible.