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Bode Olukolu

Now an Assistant Professor in Horticultural Sciences at NCSU

Contact Information:

Campus Box 7620
Raleigh, NC 27695-7620

Bode Olukolu was a Postdoctoral Associate on the Rare Alleles project.  He is now an Assistant Professor in the Horticultural Sciences Dept at NCSU. He is working on developing genetic and genomic resources for sweet potato and the project/position is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Bode started his career at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria evaluating genetic and phenotypic diversity in an under-utilized crop, Bambara groundnut, in sub-Saharan Africa. While at IITA, he also studied the genetics and breeding of bananas and plantains. Bode completed his PhD at Clemson University, SC, where he worked on the genetics of chilling requirement and dormancy bud break in stone fruits. Subsequently, he joined the American Chestnut Restoration program to map for resistance to chestnut blight and root rot. His research interests encompass quantitative genetics, genomics, and abiotic and biotic stresses. Currently, he is investigating the impact of common and rare alleles on maize evolution and domestication from its wild ancestors. Whole genome sequences and high-density SNP markers are being generated and integrated with several agronomic and domestication-related traits for genetic analyses. Understanding the genetic structure of these traits will help select against detrimental alleles and deploying favorable exotic alleles into breeding programs.

Why I became a scientist:
As a teenager in Nigeria, the internal workings of complex systems fascinated me and fueled my desire to understand how their internal components can work together as a single unit. I found myself taking apart a transistor radio as though I planned on reverse-engineering it. I asked unusual questions and then later found like-minded people in scientific documentaries and sometimes fictional stories of scientists gone mad in their quest to understand nature’s ability to mesmerize us with its seemingly magical illusions. I finally started finding answers in high school science classes, but that only led to more questions, until the dynamic and complex nature of genomes got me hooked! How could DNA molecules, so small, hold so much information to sculpt the immense diversity of life as we know it? For me, this was the ultimate system and now it seems that truth truly is stranger than fiction. I now get the opportunity to play around with these codes, understand how to optimize interactions between genes within the context of our changing climate and increasing world population, while improving people’s livelihood in a sustainable manner.

Quantitatively inherited or complex traits are typically the most important traits for crop production and quality, and are often adversely affected by biotic and abiotic stresses in unpredictable ways. The complexities of interactions underlying these traits are particularly apparent in plant systems with their dynamic and plastic genomes that must control adaptation to stress in their sessile state. I am currently integrating quantitative genetics, the cornerstone of plant breeding, and the more recent genomic technologies to provide a fundamental understanding of molecular mechanisms that enable a more targeted and rapid strategy for crop improvement.

Ph.D. (Genetics, Clemson University, Clemson)
M.Sc. (Genetics and molecular biology, University of Ibadan, Ibadan)
B.Sc. (Botany, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife)



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