175 Biotechnology Building
Ithaca, NY 14853
Katherine Mejia-Guerra is a postdoctoral researcher at the Buckler laboratory, her research is aimed to generate computational approaches that integrate layers of population genomics information to understand and predict the effects of sequence variation in non-coding DNA. To do so, she applies machine (deep) learning approaches to results from functional genomic experiments, such as CAGE, ATAC-Seq, mRNA-Seq and ChIP-Seq to make models of sequence organization and sequence variation in the genome.
Why I Became a Scientist:
Looking back, I could not find a career other than science for me. I grow up in Colombia (South America) in a Caribbean city without frequent contact with the “outdoors” and was indeed afraid of cows. However, I have always been the nerdy type and books were my world, some of my reading included scientific magazines for general public. At some point I read about DNA, the human genome project, and genetic engineering and couldn’t stop thinking about it. During high-school I became interested in computers, but DNA was my primary love so I went to college to become a biologist and later when pursuing my Master's degree was able to combine my interest in computers and genetics, choosing bioinformatics and computational biology as my research tools.
My interest in plants and agriculture is a consequence of being a Colombian. Despite Columbia’s small size, it is the second most biologically diverse country on the planet. We Colombians are very proud of the natural richness of our country, however, biodiversity is currently under pressure from several human activities including agriculture. I wanted my work as a scientist to have an impact in this field. So, I came to the US for my PhD to work with maize, which is like taking a superhighway in the understanding and application of plant genetics. After my PhD, I came to the Buckler lab as a Postdoc in the Panzea project to keep working with maize, particularly understanding rare sequence variation in the genome and looking at how this knowledge can be turned into better crops. In the future, I want to be able to use this experience to contribute to driving the innovation required to help farmers meet the daunting task of feed a growing world in a sustainable fashion, while growing a diverse and more nutritious basket of food.