In our Student Spotlight Series, we want to introduce you to the students who help make VacCAP possible through their passion and hard work. In this segment, get to know Sara Knowles, a Lab Technician at The Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension with advisor Dr. Jim Simon, formerly Dr. Nicholi Vorsa.
What is the project you’re working on for VacCAP about?
I am working on phenotyping for fruit quality and disease resistance traits in the cranberry mapping population segregating for fruit rot resistance. I collect and analyze data on the fruit organic acid concentrations within the population and then send those along for QTL discovery. I also help with almost every aspect of phenotyping the other traits of interest in this population, from the field to the lab. This population is genotyped and highly replicated, so we are taking full advantage of the experimental design by gathering as much phenotypic data as we can.
What is something you like or find most interesting about your work?
Plant breeding is so exciting to me, because it can solve global problems through natural trait variation. I have always been interested in the relationships between humans and plants, and plant breeding is a great field for investigating and harnessing those relationships directly. There is a balance in the potential of discovering unique or superior phenotypes, and making realistic and practical decisions using data. My work requires a variety of laboratory and field techniques, so I am always learning new things, as well as getting my hands dirty.
What do you hope to do in the future after your work here?
I hope to work in a supportive role within a breeding program. I would love to continue researching fruit metabolites and their roles in plant stress resistance, consumer preferences, and human health.
Anything else you would like to add?
I feel very privileged to have worked with Dr. Vorsa before his retirement, as he is such a brilliant and prolific scientist, who contributed so much to Vaccinium research. I look forward to working further with Dr. Simon, another talented scientist, to finish my degree.