Introducing a new blog series – just five answers to five quick questions! Thinking about doing a PhD? Find out more about what it’s like as a PhD Student at JIC. Already a PhD? Learn more about what your peers are doing.

Today we have second year student Jesús Quiroz-Chávez talking about his PhD experience!


1. Who are you?jesus1.jpg

My name is Jesús Quiroz-Chávez and I just started the 2nd year of my Ph.D. I’m from Mexico, where I studied Biological Sciences (B.S.) and Agricultural Biotechnology (M.Sc.). During my M.Sc. I used Arabidopsis thaliana for molecular biology and genetic analysis. Before joining the JIC, I worked on a maize breeding program in industry and I also did a summer internship at the ORDC-AAFC Canada.


2. What is your PhD about? 

Throughout my Ph.D. project, I’ll try to elucidate the impact of artificial selection on haplotype diversity in the wheat genome. We hypothesize that defining those regions will allow a more targeted mining of allelic variation. We are aiming to develop genome-enable bioinformatic tools to define haplotypes for the hexaploid wheat genome. Using these tools, I’m investigating the genetic diversity between landraces and elite varieties. Our goal is to determine those haplotypes in modern wheat varieties, identify novel unexploited alleles in germplasm collections, test their phenotypic value for yield and quality traits, and provide those resources to breeders to rapidly incorporate them into commercial varieties.


3. What is your favourite PhD moment so far? 

There have been many good moments just in my first year, but I will mention just three of them here. Firstly, when I started, I was fascinated to meet the authors of several scientific publications that I have read for my B.S. and M.Sc. lectures, some of them working as professors at the JIC and others as invited speakers. It felt like meeting your favourite actor from a movie! A second great experience has been attending conferences and having the opportunity to listen to pioneering scientists working in my research area and meeting people for future collaboration. Finally, coming without any bioinformatic experience, after spending several weeks of frustration trying to understand and struggling to make my scripts work, when I finally accomplished it, it was one of the most rewarding moments. It has been a great experience to start learning how informatics tools can be applied to analyse genomes to answer biological questions and how they can be employed for wheat genome improvement.


4. What do you do to switch off from PhD? 

To completely refresh my mind after trying and failing serval times to run my scripts, I enjoy cycling, working out in the gym, playing board and video games or watching/reading sci-fiction movies/books. On weekends, I enjoy cooking and looking after my garden plants, which I cross and breed as a hobby.


5. What advice would you give a new PhD student?

Remember that we are continuously in a process of learning, therefore, it is ok to fall, stand up, learn and continue. Find your weaknesses and try to work on them, since you may be working on your Ph.D. for four years, make sure to ask questions. It is fine if you don’t know everything at the beginning, be honest and ask for advice. Honesty and responsibility are key in a good working relationship. You will be surrounded by many people willing to help you, find the ones that match your needs and ask for advice, don’t struggle on your own. At some point, you will know more about your project that anybody else, be humble, share your knowledge, and help others. Lastly, a Ph.D. is a training process full of opportunities to increase your professional networks, if you have a chance get involved in other projects apart from your main research, you will be surprised how much you will learn and the rewards that you can receive.


PhD Profile was concocted by Shannon Woodhouse. If you would like to be featured on PhD Profile, please email or find Shannon on Twitter @shwoodhouse.

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