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Passion for strawberries sparks grad student’s education and career goals

Plant, Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Ph.D. student Ashley Wright has a research focus on strawberries and a teaching focus on improving scientific literacy in non-STEM majors.

Ashley Wright is a doctoral student in the Michigan State University (MSU) Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) program. She is researching resistance breeding in strawberries while also pursuing a certification in college teaching.

"My interest in plant breeding was sparked by an influential high school science teacher," she explained. "After several discussions with her about my interest in biotechnology, GMOs, and hydroponics, she found the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) Ph.D. program at Michigan State University! Ever since that, my goal throughout my undergraduate years was to be accepted into the PBGB program. My dream finally came true, and I started my advanced degree in January 2021!"

Established in 1981, the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) graduate program is a collaboration between the MSU departments of Forestry, Horticulture, Plant Biology, and Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences. Students research agronomic, forest, and horticultural species, and research is possible in topics such as applied breeding and genetics, molecular biology, disease, insect and herbicide resistances, abiotic stress factors, molecular mapping, quantitative genetics, and gene isolation and genomics.

Wright's passion for agricultural sustainability is only overshadowed by her absolute love of strawberries.

"My overall audacious goal is breeding the strawberry out of the U.S.' dirty dozen.' I primarily work on screening for resistance to various diseases — common leaf spot and grey mold — in our MSU strawberry germplasm while maintaining exceptional fruit quality, flavor, and high productivity," Wright said.

Her long-term goal is to release varieties of strawberries with resistance built into the plant to reduce the environmental impact of the berry. She also has goals of continuing to help with the successful launch of an international online certificate course titled "Plant breeding to Fight Hunger."

She plans to take this experience, merged with her plant breeding knowledge and her experience in college teaching, to develop accessible course content for breeders worldwide. 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.

For more information:
Michigan State University    


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