Student Spotlight - Olanike Omolehin

Student Spotlight

Ms. Olanike Omolehin

My name is Olanike Omolehin.

I realized that I had an interest in agricultural research in my final year of college when I developed a passion for providing disease resistant seed to growers.  At that time, I was working on breeding sweetcorn for taste improvement, but found that I had a desire to research the genetic basis of disease resistance in crops.

When I had to choose a school for graduate studies, it was very important to select one that would provide both transformative and translational field and laboratory research. I also wanted to work with outstanding faculty in plant pathology that understand the challenges posed by plant pathogens not only in the United States but also internationally. After some research, LSU’s Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology came out on top of the list for these reasons. I joined the department to work on developing corn lines that would show resistance to the accumulation of aflatoxin which is usually produced during infection by a fungus known as Aspergillus flavus.

At LSU’s Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, I have had a dynamic mix of training from highly experienced faculty who are authorities in their research areas of plant pathology. The main part of my training has been understanding how genetic transformation of plants can influence host-pathogen interactions. I have worked with faculty members that are experts in host-pathogen interaction to understand how transformed corn lines could inhibit Aspergillus flavus infection and its ability to produce aflatoxin.  I also have had the opportunity to interact with young faculty members who provided insights on how to use molecular sequence data generation, analysis and interpretation to reach useful research conclusions. In addition, I am being trained in ways to effectively communicate my science and how to network with both professionals and growers.

I have had excellent academic and professional experiences since joining the department. For example, I recently co-authored a research article that shows the possibility of utilizing newly bred transgenic corn lines in the management of aflatoxin contamination. Similarly, I have had the opportunity to present my research findings at many meetings. Especially in 2020, when I presented my work to U.S Congressional members in Washington D.C. to mark the International Year of Plant Health.

The success of my current research has depended on a combination of plant pathology, conventional breeding/seed production and molecular biology of plants. Working on this project has only been possible because most of the resources needed to conduct my research are here in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology at LSU. The laboratory resources are suitable for investigating scientific questions and quick data collection. There are also various specialized stations for conducting greenhouse and field experiments. Most importantly, I feel I am making progress with my research because I am encouraged daily by the right set of people with whom I share a common professional passion.