At a time when scientists and farmers are thinking about feeding several billion more people, Western corn rootworm, known as the billion-dollar pest, has been found to be resistant to multiple types of corn engineered to naturally produce pesticides.
It’s up to scientists like James Doroghazi, a former fellow at the Institute for Genomic Biology, to engineer new solutions to prevent these pests from decimating yields and risking global food security.
“We need to increase food production to meet growing world populations, and that is not going to happen without genetically modified organisms,” said Doroghazi, who recently accepted a job with Bayer CropScience. “I will be finding proteins that kill insects so that we can design the next generation of genetically modified organisms.”
Doroghazi’s experiences at the IGB, including earning the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Management (CEM), have made him a “well-rounded” bioinformatician ready for the next stage of his career. As a member of the Mining Microbial Genomes theme, he had the opportunity to work with several labs and build an impressive publication record.
“The combination of resources and fast pace of research at the IGB gave me a CV that I think is suited for applying to both academic and industry positions,” Doroghazi said. “I feel lucky that my experiences as an IGB Fellow prepared me to pursue an industry job. CEM exposed me to the business side of thinking and made me more comfortable with switching from an academic track to an industry track."
Equally valuable are the relationships that Doroghazi formed during his time at the IGB.
Doroghazi and Scott Woolbright, also an IGB fellow, bonded during a trip to the BGI (formerly the Beijing Genomics Institute) in China. The trip sparked a collaboration to study bacterial and fungal communities in and around the roots of prairie plants, Doroghazi said.
“The conversations that happen through theme hops or programs like the BGI trip extend your network in ways that wouldn’t happen if you were a postdoc isolated in one department.”
Doroghazi received his doctorate in Microbiology from Cornell University in 2010 under the direction of Dan Buckley. For his dissertation work, he studied the population genetics and evolution of Streptomyces. At the IGB, he worked on novel natural product genetic diversity and elucidating common themes in secondary metabolite evolution. His work was recently published in Nature Chemical Biology.
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology newsletter.