Dr. Andrew Nelson received his Ph.D. in 2012 in the lab of Dr. Dorothy Shippen. His research focused on describing mechanisms by which an essential ribonucleoprotein complex, telomerase, is regulated in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. His work resulted in seven first or co-author research publications, three reviews, and a book chapter. After graduation, Andrew performed post-doctoral research at the University of Arizona (UofA), first under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Beilstein, and then co-mentored by Dr. Beilstein and Dr. Eric Lyons. In 2018 Andrew became an independent Research Scientist in the School of Plant Science at UofA. Andrew’s initial work focused on how the sequence and function of the Arabidopsis telomerase RNA had evolved in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) but then expanded to asking functional and evolutionary questions about all classes of long non-coding RNAs in plants. Utilizing an extensive array of bioinformatic resources available at UofA (e.g., the NSF-funded CyVerse project), Andrew started developing tools to rapidly and reproducibly identify plant lncRNAs from RNA-sequencing data. These tools, and the analyses they enabled, resulted in eight publications, with an additional three under review. This work formed the basis of a two-year, $485,000 NSF grant awarded in 2018 to Andrew (PI), Dr. Upendra Devisetty of CyVerse, and fellow A&M BioBio alum, Dr. Rebecca Murphy (graduated in 2012 in the lab of Dr. John Mullet). The main goals of this proposal are to identify lncRNAs across fifteen major model or agriculturally significant plant species and then annotate them based on conservation, expression, and putative function, with a particular focus on stress-responsive lncRNAs. In June of this year, Andrew was offered a faculty position at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) in Ithaca, NY, as part of a three-person cluster hire focusing on identifying and understanding plant stress resilience mechanisms. Andrew will start at BTI in late fall of 2019.
Dr. Nelson’s advice to current grad students:
“Regardless of the professional direction you choose to take after graduate school, success requires collaboration, networking, and a willingness to learn new things. Learning new skills or information can help you be a more effective collaborator and expand your network. In turn, effective networking can help you identify opportunities before it’s too late, be it potential jobs in your field or educational seminars that can help you be a better scientist. And collaborating is just plain fun – you get to be part of something bigger that you couldn’t necessarily do on your own. Balancing all three can help you feel more fulfilled in your future career.”