Dr. Jim Derr Lab
Entrance year: 2012
Hometown: Encinitas, CA
“My research is on biodiversity of the African lion, using historical lions from museums and modern material to study their genetics over time. I am looking at lions over the past 100 years to see how conservation efforts, management, and human-wildlife conflict have changed the population’s genetic health.”
Conservation & Population Genetics
Why did you choose the Genetics PhD program at A&M?
Before graduate school, I was working with the Cheetah Conservation Fund on a project that would use scent detection dogs to collect fecal samples for DNA analysis. I didn’t have much experience in Genetics but wanted to get more involved in that part of the project so I took a Genetics course at California State University, San Marcos. My professor, Dr. Denise Garcia, was a graduate of the TAMU Genetics Program and suggested I look into applying. Once I visited TAMU, I knew it was a great fit for me. The interdisciplinary nature of the program was suited for my background as well as what I had in mind for the future direction of my career.
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?
Communication is everything! If something is bothering you, don’t bottle it up. If you’re proud of something someone did, let them know. If you’re proud of something YOU did, tell your PI! An open line of communication means less ambiguity and will lead to a better attitude and more productivity.
Fuego or Torchy’s?
If there are tacos, I’ll be there.
Who was your famous role model growing up?
Jane Goodall all the way! I read My Life with the Chimpanzees in the 3rd grade and my life goal became to be like her. I have a minor in Anthropology because primates were my first love, before I discovered how awesome carnivores are!