Now an Assistant Professor at University of Georgia
University of Georgia
Jason Wallace is now an assistant professor at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on using quantitative genetics and genomics to dissect complex traits in crops, with an emphasis on how plant microbiomes affect crop performance.
Jason was a postdoctoral associate who focused on using genomics to improve crop production in the developing world. He got his PhD working on molecular biology in bacteria, but switched to crop genetics so he would work on more applied problems. Jason has worked with several international groups on projects for developing agriculture, including the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT, Mexico), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT, India and Africa), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to his primary work on maize, he has side collaborations on less well-known crops such as pearl millet, barnyard millet, and fonio.
Why I love my job
I love learning new things. Growing up, I was always that nerdy kid who would rather watch Square One or Nova instead of basketball. I toyed with a few different careers in college, including a year or two of writing science fiction, but I eventually realized that what I most enjoyed was the act of discovery. Finding out something new about how the world worked—especially about life, that most infinitely complex of everyday phenomena—brought me a thrill I couldn't get anywhere else. There's a simple beauty in how a handful of chemical building blocks can interact to form the living world around us. To this day, I'm in awe of how DNA, with only 4 letters to work with, gives rise to such exquisite things as the vein patterns in a leaf or the curve of a nautilus's shell.
Working as a scientist, I get to push back the borders of what we know. It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day humdrum of writing programs, designing experiments, and similar stuff, but that thrill that comes when I find something no one one else has ever seen makes it all worthwhile. Life is beautiful, really, and the more I explore the more I see layers of beauty I never even expected were there. Best of all is when I can then take what I've learned and turn it into something useful, like an improved crop. That makes it not just some pretty piece to hang up in an ivory tower, but instead a down-to-earth, functional tool that's actually helping people. And that, I think, is the most beautiful thing of all.
BS Integrative Biology, Brigham Young University, 2006
MS Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, 2008
PhD Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, 2011