The supportive environment at MSU has paved the way for Shujun Ou

Shujun Ou recently graduated from Michigan State in December of 2018 with a PhD in Plant Genetics and Evolutionary Biology. We asked him a few questions about what he has been up to since graduating.

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Why did you choose Horticulture and why MSU?

Frankly speaking, Horticulture and MSU chose me and gave me the opportunity to study in this world-class plant-centered institute. Dr. Ning Jiang in the Department of Horticulture at MSU selected me from dozens of applicants to be her new graduate student. Before I joined MSU, I didn’t even know the English word for “Horticulture.” However, I don't regret becoming part of it. The diversity of the department allowed me to learn and study different model and non-model plant systems with leading experts. I am grateful for this experience and the diversified graduate training have prepared me to be a qualified plant scientist.

Where did you go after MSU?

I went to Iowa State University to work as a postdoc with Dr. Matthew Hufford to continue my research in transposable elements (aka. jumping genes.)

Any thoughts for current students?

MSU has so many plant majors and you can always find one that fits you the best. The large research population on campus is a great resource that can serve as your think tank for knowledge and advice. Departments, programs, and professors always open their doors for help-seekers. Student groups are the firmest social supports where you can establish strong friendships and unforgettable memories. Please also watch out for the great resources such as supercomputers, fellowships, and workshops. Don’t hesitate to seek what you want and become what you have dreamed of.

Describe your current work. What keeps you engaged in your work?

I was trained to be a plant scientist that is specialized in transposable elements (TEs.) After graduating from MSU, I decided to further extend my specialty in this field and hopefully establish my career. So I went to the Hufford Lab at Iowa State University that studies maize genomes, in which 85% of the genomic contents are TEs. At ISU, I joined a nation-wide collaborative project that attempts to decode the genomes of 27 diverse maize lines. In this project, I developed computer programs to advance the TE annotation methods in maize as well as for other plant genomes. I also study the potential biological functions resulted from the activity of TEs. I am so grateful that the study and work environment at both MSU and ISU have been very supportive and encouraging. Without these supportive environments, I won’t have been able to engage in my work as I currently do.

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