Flora: Stories from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology


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Without plants, we wouldn’t have air to breathe, and we also wouldn’t have these great stories inspired by the leafy green vegetation. This week’s episode, produced in partnership with The Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, features two stories from scientists of the cutting-edge research institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who had plants impact their life and science.

Part 1: While everyone around Anthony Digrado is impressed with his plant PhD research, he isn’t sure if he actually knows what he’s doing.

Part 2: Scientist Jessica Brinkworth turns to gardening in the midst of a burnout.

Anthony Digrado got his Ph.D. in Belgium where he studied the impact of the environment (such as high temperature and dry spells) on the vegetation in a grassland. He now works as a postdoc at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Jessica Brinkworth is an assistant professor and evolutionary immunologist in the Department of Anthropology. She directs the Evolutionary Immunology and Genomics laboratory at UIUC. Her research program revolves around a basic question “why do we get sick?” Her work demonstrates profound differences between humans and closely related primates often used as medical models in power and specificity of immune responses to severe infections, and as well as how chronic social stress alters immune function. Since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 her lab has worked with Illinois agricultural workers, focusing on the effects of labour environment on immune function and disease susceptibility. Prior to and during part of her academic career, Brinkworth was a policy analyst in health risk management and later biologic drug regulations for Health Canada.

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