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CREATE-IGERT Alumni Dr. LaKisha Odom Selected for AAAS, Science and Technology Policy Fellowship


Dr. LaKisha Odom, an alumni from the CREATE (Collaborative Research and Education in Agricultural Technologies and Engineering) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, was selected to receive an American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science and Technology Policy Fellowship with placement in the United States Department of Agriculture. Dr. Odom completed her PhD in Integrative Biosciences at Tuskegee University, a partner with University of California at Davis for the CREATE-IGERT program. Dr. Odom was selected as one of 130 fellows in the 2013-14 class of scientists and engineers out of 850 applicants and will spend a year at the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) Biotechnology Regulatory Service, Office of Science. The BRS Office of Science supports regulatory decision making for genetically engineered organisms and ensures that BRS regulations are grounded in state-of-the-art science.

Address Goals

The CREATE-IGERT program (PI, Karen McDonald), a partnership between the University of California at Davis (UCD) and Tuskegee University (TU), is focused on integrative, interdisciplinary graduate training in plant biotechnology. The CREATE-IGERT program brings together a diverse group of faculty and graduate students from agricultural/plant sciences, molecular biology and engineering to work together in interdisciplinary teams to tackle critical societal challenges with applications in energy, health and sustainable agriculture. An important aspect of the CREATE-IGERT program is ensuring that the doctoral students not only have deep scientific and technical knowledge in areas directly related to their dissertation project, but also have a good understanding of the complexities of the broader issues related to plant biotechnology, including global perspectives, environmental impacts, public/societal views, regulatory requirements, business/intellectual property paradigms.

Dr. LaKisha Odom’s training, including rigorous scientific and technical research and coursework in the Integrative Biosciences program at TU, a MA in Environmental Resource Policy at George Washington University, and previous work experience, coupled with her CREATE-IGERT activities (laboratory short courses in Plant Transformation Methods and Recovery and Purification of Plant-Made Products, participation in the annual CREATE-IGERT Symposium and other scientific conferences ,and an international internship at Teagasc Oak Park facility, one of our international partners in Carlow, Ireland), prepared her very well for an AAAS Fellowship. Dr. Odom’s doctoral research focused on an agriculturally important problem, cotton seedling disease, which is particularly important in the southern U.S. She used an original approach to cotton improvement (transgenic expression of a novel synthetic antimicrobial peptide D4E1 which is patented by Tuskegee Professor, Jesse Jaynes), designing experiments with real-world impact (field trials that required adherence to USDA APHIS regulations), and incorporating studies to assess the environmental impacts of the technology on soil biochemistry and microbial diversity. While at Teagasc Oak Park research center in Ireland, she worked as part of a team led by Dr. Ewen Mullins on the identification of a natural soil bacterium capable of efficiently transferring DNA to plant cells. Unlike the traditional method for plant transformation, which utilizes Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the new bacteria circumvents existing patent restrictions and is not a plant pathogen, providing a more environmentally-friendly approach for genetic manipulation of plants. The holistic approach she used in both her dissertation and internship research is an excellent example of how to advance science and serve society. Dr. Odom’s interdisciplinary training through the NSF-funded CREATE-IGERT program not only contributed to her competitiveness as an AAAS nominee, but will serve her and our country well during her tenure as an AAAS Fellow.