Jasmine Baker

4th Year PhD Student
Comparative Genomics/Biological Sciences
Louisiana State University

About Me

My undergraduate degree was in Biological Sciences and I graduated from Louisiana Tech University. I thought I would be a medical doctor.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

My experience with STEM classes in middle and high school were normal in my opinion. They were mostly book based with a few experiments. The main experiment that sticks out for me is dissection day.

After grad school, what’s next?

After grad school, I intend to pursue a post-doc/job within the fields of bioinformatics and comparative genomics so I can further develop my programming skills and explore the unknowns of genomes.

What do you do to unwind?

I usually cook or read fiction novels to unwind.      

My Research

My research focuses on mobile elements, DNA that moves within genomes, in Squirrel Monkeys. Squirrel Monkey is one of the two New World Monkey genomes assembled and annotated. My research uses Squirrel Monkey specific Alu elements to address genomic dynamics at the time of speciation. These insertions should help identify patterns of geographic origin within the Squirrel Monkey lineage, help with population studies and improve future biomedical studies using Squirrel Monkey as a model organism.

I was motivated to pursue this line of research because Alu elements are a very dynamic group of mobile elements that have shaped various primate genomes. Also, Squirrel Monkeys are very valuable to biomedical research and play a crucial role in New World Monkey phylogeny.

The coolest thing about my research is being able to combine computational and wet bench methods to problem solve.

The hardest part of research is remaining positive and encouraged when experiments do not work.

My Grad School Experience

Grad school has always been a dream of mine. I chose to attend graduate school because I love to determine the unknown and problem solve. I have always enjoyed research and knew that attending graduate school would be a great way to fulfill my personal joy of problem solving and research.

YES! There have been numerous times when I felt discouraged throughout my journey. I overcame being discouraged through different methods. The first way is having a great support system that is always willing to offer supportive and constructive commentary. Second, I keep a list of my goals so that even after discouragement, I wouldn’t linger on my downfall but instead look toward my next goal. Lastly, I realized that sometimes it’s okay to take a break and try again later.

My biggest cheerleader is my husband. He always keeps me encouraged and focused on the finish line! He is a daily support system and has encouraged me to find inner strength through difficult times. Next up is my family. My family is always supportive of my goals and dreams regardless of how difficult it may seem. Finally, I would say that my sorority sisters are also some of my biggest cheerleaders. My sisters are always supportive of my dreams and check on me constantly to make sure I keep pushing towards my goals.

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

Always keep a positive outlook on life. Just because times are hard now doesn’t mean they will always be hard. Also, know that you can accomplish your goals when you have a plan in place!

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

Do what is best for your life and career at the time regardless of what others think.          

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