Wren Jenkins, Biology graduate student. Image on the left is Sorghum Tissue Sampling, image on the right is Measuring Miscanthus stem lengths
Wren Jenkins, Biology graduate student. Image on the left is Sorghum Tissue Sampling, image on the right is Measuring Miscanthus stem lengths

Wren Jenkins, a biology graduate student at the College of Science, recently won the Graduate School's annual Three Minute Thesis competition at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, and is committed to a greener future and focused in biofuel crops research.

Jenkins's journey at UAH started with her undergraduate degree in biology, and now she is pursuing her master's. Despite UAH not being primarily a plant-focused school, she took courses such as Plants, People, and the Environment and Plant Physiology, which ignited her passion for plant research. This led her to apply to the BioTrain internship at HudsonAlpha, ultimately securing a position there.

The initial connection with UAH occurred during her high school years at the Gatton Academy in Western Kentucky. UAHs recruitment efforts caught her attention, and a campus visit solidified her decision to join the university. Dr. Moriarty from the Department of Biological Sciences gave her a personalized tour and illustrated the campus's energy and research opportunities, making UAH stand out among other schools on Jenkin's list.

Jenkins is considering a Ph.D. with a focus on agricultural research. Her work at HudsonAlpha involves bioenergy grasses, contributing to developing sustainable alternative fuels for a greener future.

“My lean towards microbiology was influenced by courses I was able to take at the Gatton Academy.” However, the experiences she acquired in Dr. Sysoeva's lab, the classes she took, and her internship at Hudson Alpha exposed her to different types of research, steering her interest toward agricultural genomics and bioenergy grasses.

Wren Jenkins at CROPS 2022 research conference

Wren Jenkins at CROPS 2022 research conference.

Jenkins's achievements extend beyond her research, as she recently excelled in the Three Minute Thesis competition. Originating in Australia, this competition challenges graduate students to present their research in a concise three-minute talk. Her success in this competition reflects her ability to communicate complex scientific concepts efficiently.

Delving into her research on bioenergy grasses, she explains the significance of exploring floral traits to identify genetic loci controlling these features. Her work aims to contribute to developing environmentally friendly fuel sources that can thrive on marginal lands, avoiding competition with food crops.

As the Educational Outreach Coordinator for the UAH Biological Society, a student organization, she is committed to enhancing undergraduate research opportunities. Jenkins encourages students to engage with clubs like the Biological Society, facilitating exposure to diverse scientific topics and providing networking opportunities.

She emphasizes the importance of pursuing opportunities and advises students to seek experiences. "When opportunities arise, seize them; hidden gains often emerge from unexpected paths. I never foresaw applying for a plant lab in biotrain when I enrolled in those plant classes," Jenkins concludes.