Elyssa Garza

Dr. Alan Pepper’s Lab

Entrance year: 2013

Hometown: Mission, TX

“My research focuses on investigating plant adaptation to harsh environments: particularly serpentine soils. I use growth experiments, molecular techniques, and bioinformatics to understand how the genome of a plant is altered to allow its survival in nonideal conditions. The final products of my research will provide reference genomes to study serpentine adaptation and resources for developing nutrient efficient uptake in agriculture and phytoremediation.”

Research Specialties

Bioinformatics and Genomics

Plant Genetics

Why did you choose the Genetics PhD program at A&M?

I chose the Genetics PhD program at A&M because the TAMU genetics website was very informative, the graduate students at recruitment were overly nice, interesting, and knowledgeable, and it was interdisciplinary.  After previously working in a very structured lab, I wanted to find a program that had predetermined goals laid out for the students and a versatile faculty. I had multiple interviews that showed the faculty really cared for their graduate students. Also, some professors gave me tours of their labs and I was impressed by the different tools I would encounter if I joined a lab a Texas A&M. After the February recruitment event, I felt confident that TAMU would be a great place to stay.

How did the first year of the program help you prepare for your independent research project?

In my first year of graduate school, I rotated in three labs that approached the study of organisms from different angles: looking at the role of specific genes, quantitative analysis, or genome and transcriptome analysis. I really appreciated learning various techniques from these labs and applying them to the large data analysis I do now.

What is at least one big lesson you have learned in the Genetics graduate program that you think is widely applicable to your future pursuits?

Sometimes things in the lab go missing, even if they are there just yesterday. Be prepared to find or make something on short notice. It is also best to make sure to plan ahead properly: know where the tools and reagents in the lab/building can be found. A calendar, especially a digital calendar can be your best friend.

Fun Facts:

Fuego or Torchy’s?   

Neither, I’d rather have hot and sour soup from He’s Café or Aji sushi.