Olivia Asher

Olivia Asher

What brought you to UGA? I did a virtual REU internship with Dr. Jonathan Arnold in the summer of 2020 prior to applying to graduate school. This internship was on mathematical modeling of a fungal-plant system. Prior to this internship, I was interested in fungi but I did not realize that I could combine my interest with fungi with computational and mathematical research. This experience was inspiring to me and I ended up applying to only PhD programs which offered bioinformatics or computational biology programs.
Once I was accepted to several schools, I ended up picking UGA because it was the one program that I was accepted to that allowed me to do bioinformatics and still continue to study fungi. I decided to continue and expand my REU project for my PhD.

What are your research/study interests? I am interested in using bioinformatics and wet-lab techniques to study fungal-plant interactions. I specifically study arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi-sorghum interactions using mathematical modeling and genomic methods.

What has been a benefit of being part of IPS?/How did it help you select your program? Being part of IPS allowed me to connect with other students studying plants and fungi from different perspectives. I was able to make a lot of friends through this program which was great. I came into IPS knowing I planned to join the Institute of Bioinformatics, but the lab rotations and flexibility of IPS allowed me to rotate in labs I wouldn’t normally get to do research in. The lab rotation experience led me to join two labs, Jeffery Bennetzen’s lab and Jonathan Arnold’s lab, to work on a collaborative project. If I hadn’t had a chance to rotate in the Bennetzen lab I may not have had the opportunity to develop the collaborative project I’m working on.

What are your career goals? I plan to pursue a career as a national lab scientist, working for one of the many labs run by the United States Department of Energy. I hope to continue working on interesting fungal/bacterial/plant systems using both experimental and computational approaches.

Who is your major professor? My major professors are Jonathan Arnold and Jeffery Bennetzen.