By Echo Martin
Stefanie Dukowic-Schulze has been a researcher in Changbin Chen’s lab since 2011. Originally from southern Germany near Heidelberg, Dukowic-Schulze has published 10 papers in her time with the U of M and given presentations on her research around the world.
How did you become interested in plant biology?
I’ve always loved teaching and learning, and I just didn’t want to stop—so I went to the University of Karlsruhe, now Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, to study general biology. Someone in the botanical department spoke to me about a research position, which eventually led to my thesis. I hadn’t been exposed to research before then, but now it’s become a real, true passion of mine. I couldn’t give it up now.
What are you researching?
Most of my research comes back to meiosis. Right now we’re trying to understand where recombination events take place. You have two chromosomes and they pair together. Before they separate again, they exchange some parts, called crossovers, and this is a recombination event. Understanding where those crossovers happen and why they happen in those locations is particularly important for introducing genetic variety into plant breeding. We’re looking at maize right now. When you move from a model plant to a crop plant, you really start to see the potential of your research. The next phase is looking at maize in different temperatures and the effects on crossovers.
How have you and your work grown?
Dr. Chen is so great at supporting the people in his lab and helping them grow while also letting them be independent. This independence has helped me to develop my own research niches that no one else has looked at, like the role of mitochondria during meiosis and the role of specific RNA’s in 3-dimensional chromosome dynamics. I’ve had the opportunity to attend professional conferences each year as well. This has been great for networking and getting input from the greater community on my work, as well as expanding my own thinking.
What advice do you have for others who are pursuing a post-doctoral position?
First, look for a lab that both gives you technical skills and helps you develop professionally. There are labs out there that might give you a lot of high impact publications, but they might not develop you as your own researcher. Second, look for fellowships early on after completing your Ph.D. There are a lot within the first four years, but after that it’s a lot harder to find fellowships. Oh, and make sure to give yourself hard deadlines for publications!