Dr. Priyanka Kushwaha wins grants to collaborate and travel

Dr. Priyanka Kushwaha, UA SRP postdoctoral trainee in Dr. Raina Maier’s lab, was recently awarded both the KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement and the University of Arizona (UA) Postdoctoral Research Development Grant.

The KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement was created in memory of Dr. KC Donnelly, a longtime SRP grantee. The award is presented to early investigators to promote transdisciplinary and translational research. It allows these awardees to have “translational/transdisciplinary opportunities and experiences within other SRP-funded centers, government laboratories or other agencies.”

Kushwaha will be visiting Dr. Julian Schroeder’s lab at UC San Diego in the fall for four weeks.

Kushwaha said Dr. Maier encouraged her to apply for the KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement, and recommended Dr. Julian Schroeder’s lab for the four-week externship. Dr. Schroeder’s cutting-edge research is focused on understanding molecular mechanisms by which plants respond to environmental stress.

During her externship, Kushwaha will study plant-microbe interactions during plant growth in legacy mine tailings that are acidic and high in metal content. She will use genomic approaches - plant metatranscriptomics combined with microbial iTag and metagenomics analyses.

Kushwaha will ask the question: “What will be the differences in the expression of plant genes, particularly metal-induced and stress-related, if plants are grown in tailings versus normal soil?” She hopes to find out what patterns of plant gene expression and which types of plant growth promoting microbes help the plants survive and grow in metalliferous mine tailings. 

“It will be a good opportunity for me to collaborate with Dr. Schroeder’s research group as I am very keen on understanding plant-microbial interactions and their application for phytoremediation purposes,” Kushwaha added.

As a recipient of the UA Postdoctoral Research Development Grant, Kushwaha has been given the title of UA Sursum Fellow. This grant will allow Kushwaha to travel to the 2018 Joint Genome Institute Microbial Genomics and Metagenomics Workshop.

Kushwaha said that she was never formally trained in analyzing microbial sequencing data, rather, she is self-taught so far. This grant will allow her to learn from experts.

“At these workshops, they are trying to teach you the updated data analyses tools, because the way the sequencing data is generated and analyzed changes so rapidly,” Kushwaha said. “You have the opportunity of exploring different tools as well as interacting with researchers who have already been doing the data analysis, so you can hear which tools they feel confident about.”

The workshop will provide training in analyzing amplicon sequencing, metagenomes, and metabolomics, but for Kushwaha, the metagenomes analysis will be the most beneficial for her current research.

Congratulations to Dr. Priyanka Kushwaha on her two awards, the KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement and the UA Postdoctoral Research Development Grant!