Monday, September 7, 2020

Biotechnology Division Award Winner: Andrea L. Zavadil

Q&A with Biotechnology Division Award Winner: Andrea L. Zavadil 

Bio: Andrea Zavadil grew up on a small farm in northeast Nebraska, where her dad was a corn, soybean and cattle producer. She knew before she even started college that she had a great interest in science, but also a great pride in agriculture from her upbringing on the farm. She chose to attend South Dakota State University, in Brookings, South Dakota, for her undergrad. She majored in Biotechnology and Microbiology, which really connected science and agriculture for me. Her education in these fields really excited her because she learned about the newest advancements in the field. She also realized the numerous possibilities for a career in these industries. At the end of her undergraduate career, she had the opportunity to work as a Research Intern at POET, LLC. This internship provided her with many valuable new skills and even further strengthened her interest in biotechnology. After her internship, she realized she wanted to further develop her background in research. Currently, Zavadil is in her second year of her Master's in Microbiology at South Dakota State University. Her thesis project involves inducing soybeans to produce the antimicrobial metabolite, glyceollin. Again, this thesis project connects her two great interests, and even further opens the door for opportunities in the field. After finishing her degree this fall, she hopes to find a career in the agricultural biotechnology/microbiology industry.

1) What was your reaction when you learned you won the Biotechnology Division Award?

I was very excited when I learned I had won the award. I know there is a tremendous amount of high level, groundbreaking, research in this field and I felt very honored to have been chosen. Most of all, I felt very proud of all the hard work accomplished that I know would not have been possible without the help of my mentors and fellow lab mates. This recognition has encouraged me to believe in my strength and set even higher goals for the future.

2) How did you get started in the area of focus that you are studying?

I first learned about biotechnology in high school, through my agricultural study classes. At South Dakota State University, I learned that biotechnology and microbiology were offered as undergraduate majors and I realized that this would be the perfect fit for me. 

3) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study?

The recent stay-at-home policy due to coronavirus has been the most unique challenge. I went from spending nearly every day of the week in the lab, to staying at home for months. I had to learn that I could still pursue my work, but I had to be more diligent to find opportunities to move forward. Whether it was reading a new article, revising my literature review, or fine-tuning figures and tables - I had to learn how to continue working all from my computer. 

4) Do you have any words of wisdom for other AOCS student members?

Sending in an abstract or a proposal to a conference, award competition or even school-sponsored event is always worth the time! Each event always brings something new and adds to my skillset. 

5) How has winning the AOCS Biotechnology Division Award helped you develop as a young scientist?

I feel so fortunate to have won the AOCS Biotechnology Division Award. During the virtual conference, I had the opportunity to listen to and read through some great presentations about work that I never would have learned about without AOCS. It was great as a young scientist to hear about the wide range of innovative research that there is outside of my own university. 

6) Can you tell us about your current research?

I am working with different varieties of soybeans to induce expression of the secondary metabolite glyceollin. Glyceollin is produced under times of stress by the soybean plant and has known antifungal and antimicrobial ability. To induce expression, I use several fungal strains, as well as UV light to apply stress to the soybeans. I have also looked at isoflavone production during when the plant is in stressful conditions, to try to determine if there is any correlation between specific isoflavones and glyceollin during stress. Additionally, I am also studying if the soybean varietal difference has any impact on glyceollin production with the goal of identifying the highest glyceollin yielding variety.

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