Alumnus recognized by The Plant Cell scientific journal

Jordan Jewell, Engagement Editor

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Oakland University alumnus Jacob Corll spent five and a half years studying biology and philosophy, earning two degrees from the university. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree under his belt, Corll has reached another milestone in his career: having a project he worked on published in a scientific journal, The Plant Cell. 

While at OU, did you have any mentors or professors that made an impact on the route you are taking in your career?

I had many mentors and professors over the years that have influenced my professional career path. Perhaps the first to help direct me is the now sitting chair of the Department of Biology, Dr. Douglas Wendell. I joined his lab as a freshman and spent nearly two years volunteering and learning from him. It was an incredible opportunity that really helped to reinforce the idea that this was the proper career choice for me.

Jumping ahead, I would say my thesis committee during my master’s all had a great impact on me. Dr. Fabia Battistuzzi was the first person to really help show me how incorporating computational skills into biological research was not only useful, but allows for elucidating answers to questions that would have otherwise been unimaginative, much less possible.

Of course, Dr. Shailesh Lal has been a major influence and guide for my career path. I joined his lab as an undergraduate at the end of my second to last semester and continued on into my master’s.  Under his guidance, I was able to enter into an ongoing project and help see it to completion, the works of which have been recently published in The Plant Cell scientific journal.

What made you want to pursue plant science, specifically relating to your feature in The Plant Cell?

When I first began my undergraduate degree, I found the area of genetics to be fascinating. My first class I took was the Intro to Bio lab, and the teaching assistant mentioned that Dr. Wendell was a professor who took undergraduates into their labs and offered actual research experience. Dr. Wendell was studying the genetics of the plant model species, rapid-cycling Brassica rapa, also known as Fast Plants. He had developed this particular variant of Brassica rapa for teaching in labs to help demonstrate ideas like DNA fingerprinting. Given my interest in genetics, I emailed him asking if I could work in his lab, and he responded inviting me to talk later that day. The rest is history.

My interest in plants was not so much about the plants themselves, but what people were discovering in them. Plants, while not completely perfect, have a lot of advantages in a research setting compared to a mammalian system for studying genetics.

Even more interesting to me was that humans and plants share a large amount of genes and regulatory mechanisms, despite their large apparent differences.

How does it feel to be recognized for your work in such a big way?

It is of course an honor to be recognized for our work, but I would emphasize that while I am a co-first author, this publication was an accomplishment between the three separate labs of Dr. Lal at Oakland University, and Drs. Settles and Barbazuk of the University of Florida. I am beyond excited to have been able to finish my master’s with a first author paper, but it was very much a group effort, as all science is.