Latimer ’17 Conducts Plant Genetic Research – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Latimer ’17 Conducts Plant Genetic Research

As she worked to sequence RNA from an apple rootstock population, Isabella Latimer ’18 collaborated with student scientists and the experts at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES).

Like Yuxi Liu ’18, Latimer was funded by the Brenda and Dave Rickey Foundation. Brenda and Dave Rickey established the Foundation as one of several means of supporting the local community. Since 2009, the Rickey Foundation has funded HWS student research at NYSAES.

Under the guidance of Gennaro Fazio, a plant breeder and research geneticist with the USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit located at the NYSAES, Latimer was responsible for collecting field samples and processing them in the lab. The results of the sequencing, Latimer explains, “will be used to identify genes involved in nutrient uptake/processing, disease resistance and potentially new genes. All of this information is compiled to help the station and science community as a whole better understand apple rootstock genetics, enabling the production of elite rootstocks for apple growers and ultimately, consumers.”

Latimer’s biology courses at HWS, she says, “provided me with a solid and versatile foundation of lab skills that I used every day in my projects. By having both field and lab experience from various biology courses, I was prepared for all of the work I performed.”

The experience at NYSAES expanded her perspective on biological research, highlighting “how different members of the lab group collaborate between field and indoor lab work to form one cohesive project. At school, typically a biology course is either mainly field or lab based. Seeing the two function together was great.”

For many years, HWS students like Latimer have collaborated with Cornell researchers at NYSAES. Through innovative research, education and extension programs, the NYSAES seeks to advance a sustainable agriculture and food system that will improve human health, protect the environment and support the economic development that is needed to address state and global needs.

Over the years, HWS students have participated in summer or academic-year research at NYSAES, which often fulfills course credit for independent studies, Honors work or semester-long research projects. Students also may receive monetary compensation for such research work.